Monthly Archives: May 2024

Late Spring Gardener’s Calendar

Turn over your vegetable garden and add humus, mushroom compost or manure to enrich the soil.  Apply Bonide Fruit Tree Spray as buds swell and again at petal drop to all fruit trees.

Fertilize perennials with Dr. Earth Rose & Flower Fertilizer.

Continue spring cleanup.  Completely remove winter mulch.  Cultivate to remove winter weeds and debris from the planting beds, then edge.  Prepare your annual beds, and mulch landscape beds with shredded mulch, bark chips or gravel.   Apply Preen or Corn Gluten and scratch it in to prevent future weeds, or try the new Preen Mulch Plus which combines mulch and Preen and prevents weeds for up to 6 months.

Plant and transplant trees and shrubs, including roses, ground covers, and perennials (including hardy lilies and lily-of-the-valley).

Seed or sod new lawns.  Reseed bare spots in established lawns.  Keep the area moist until seedlings appear, then mow when the new grass is 3” high.

Put down a second application of Team or Tupersan (newly seeded lawns) for pre-emergent goosegrass control and control of crabgrass the rest of the year.

Transplant cool-season seedlings into the garden.  When the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees, sow warm- and cool-season vegetable and herb seeds.

Dig and divide crowded spring bulbs after they have finished blooming. Enrich the soil with compost, manure or Espoma Bulb-Tone.

Prune forsythia and other spring-flowering trees and shrubs after the flowers fall.

Place gro-thru sets and link stakes over or around peonies, grasses or any other perennials in need of support.

Check arborvitae, cedar, juniper spruce and pine for bagworms.  Hand-pick bags from the host and spray with Ortho Systemic Insecticide.

Begin summer rose care program of deadheading, spraying and watering.

Fertilize roses with Bayer All In One Rose and Flower Care or Dr Earth Rose and Flower Fertilizer, azaleas with Espoma Holly-Tone or Dr Earth Azalea/Camelia Fertilizer, and fruit trees with Dr Earth Tomato and Vegetable Fertilizer.

Deadhead bulbs, but leave foliage to mature and yellow before removing.  This will help nourish the bulb for next year’s flowering. Fertilize with Dr Earth Bulb Fertilizer.

Prune new growth on needled evergreens.

Dig and divide early blooming perennials after flowering.

Apply Encap Fast Acting Iron Plus or Bonide Liquid Iron Plus to azaleas, hollies, junipers, laurel, pines, rhododendron and spruce to provide iron for chlorophyll production by foliage.

Fertilize container plants and window boxes weekly with a Master Nursery Bud and Bloom Plant Food, or use Dynamite All Purpose Plant Food for season-long feeding, to promote healthy, vigorous plants all summer.

Pay close attention to the watering needs of these plants as well as hanging baskets, because they tend to dry out quickly on hot summer days.

Check plants for spider mite damage and treat with Bayer 3 in 1 Insect, Disease and Mite Control then alternate every 7-10 days with Bonide All-Season Oil Spray.

Rock Gardens

Rock gardens can be amazing options for challenging spaces in your landscape, whether your yard has poor soil, narrow sections, steep terraces, deep shade or other concerns. You can even design a rock garden anywhere just to enjoy their elegant lines, varied texture and easy care. But how do you put in a rock garden?

What Is a Rock Garden?

A rock garden is much more than just a pile of rocks, but of course rocks are the key component of this type of landscaping. Using different colors, shapes and textures from gravel and river rocks to flagstones, pavers and boulders will add dimension and variety to any rock garden. These unique gardens also often include rock-loving plants, a water feature or a design to mimic dry water, unexpected blooms and interesting accessories. Sizes can also vary, from simple containers or corner accents to a full landscaping bed or even an entire yard. While rocks may be a key feature of a rock garden, this type of garden can truly be anything you like!

Designing a Rock Garden

Rock gardens can be very flexible and you can create any type of rock garden you envision, but following some basic steps will give your garden a cohesive, amazing design you will love for years.

  1. Choose the Location
    In many cases, your yard will choose the location for your rock garden based on where you may have difficulty growing other plants or flowers, or where sunlight levels aren’t ideal for vigorous plants. Don’t be afraid to choose any location you’d like to see interesting rocks, however, including planning a rock garden around a pergola, gazebo or meditation space such as a favorite bench or simple pond.
  2. Lay Out the Garden Shape
    When planning a rock garden, use a hose, planter stakes or flexible edging to outline the garden space. This will help you visualize where to put the primary rocks and plants, and you can easily adjust your outline to find the perfect shape for your rock garden. You can consider natural curves and flowing lines, or you might prefer a more geometric shape for a visual pop in your landscape.
  3. Clear the Garden Space
    If the area for your new rock garden isn’t already bare, you will need to clear out existing plants and grass to make way for your new design. Opt for sharp tools designed for cutting sod and digging up root systems to be sure you are able to clear plants effectively. Putting down a layer of weed barrier fabric is a good idea to keep growth from recurring so your rock garden remains crisp and clean, reducing the need to weed.
  4. Install Rocks
    Take your time installing different rocks in your garden, starting with the largest boulders or heavier rocks and carefully positioning them just where you want to see them, checking from different angles to be sure they offer the most pleasing view. You can even create patterns with rocks, such as using different rock shapes or colors to create a spiral or labyrinth, initials or fun features such as flowers, waves or complete scenes. Think vertically as well, stacking rocks to create a cairn or arch, or opt for fun mimicry such as using different rock sizes and colors to create a dry “creek” bed in your rock garden.
  5. Add Plants
    Plants will be part of your rock garden, add them after you’ve designed the rocky spaces, and filling around these rocks with soil. Most plants can be part of a rock garden, however, drought tolerant plant that grow in well-drained, low-fertility soil are the best choices. Flowering bulbs, evergreens and ornamental grasses are popular choices, and you might include mounds of graceful groundcovers or even interesting mosses – depending on the amount of sun you receive. Keeping the chosen plants ultimate size in mind when planning is also essential to a well-designed rock garden. Make sure that the plants with stay in scale with the size garden you have created. Always when selecting plants, consider the light level of your garden as well as the soil quality and moisture levels to be sure the plants will thrive alongside your rocks.
  6. Fill Bare Spaces
    Because rocks don’t grow, they won’t gradually get larger to fill in bare spaces in a rock garden. Instead, you can fill in those spaces yourself with additional gravel or pretty pebbles, mulch or smaller ground covers. Leave enough room for any plants in the garden to grow to their mature size, but feel free to fill in the extra spaces with additional color and texture.
  7. Accessorize Your Garden
    Adding accessories, accents and decorations to your rock garden is a lot of fun, and helps add more color and character to the design. Consider a colorful gazing ball, bird bath, meditation bench, statue, fountain or other interesting element. Containers of flowers can be beautiful additions, or you might want to position solar stakes or other landscape lighting that will show off the drama of your rock garden after the sun goes down.

A rock garden is a fun chance to be creative in your landscape, and it can be a great way to show off your personality in unique and interesting ways. Rock on!

Milkweed and Monarchs

In nature, few relationships are as intricate and essential as that between the Monarch butterfly and the milkweed plant. Famous for being the most recognized insect in the US, these vibrant winged beauties rely on milkweed not only for sustenance but for their very survival. Sharing this fascinating relationship between Monarchs and milkweed with you, we’ll explore how this plant supports every stage of the butterfly’s life cycle.

Birthplace and Sanctuary:
Milkweed, genus Asclepias, serves as the cradle of life for Monarch butterflies. Female Monarchs lay their eggs exclusively on milkweed plants, offering them a safe haven as they undergo their transformation from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly.

Caterpillar Cuisine:
Once the Monarch eggs hatch, the tiny caterpillars feast voraciously on milkweed leaves. These particular leaves provide the essential nutrients needed for the caterpillars to grow rapidly. As they munch on the leaves, they accumulate toxins from the milkweed sap, making them distasteful and even poisonous to potential predators. This unique adaptation is crucial for the survival of Monarch caterpillars in the wild.

Metamorphosis Station:
As the caterpillars mature, they undergo a miraculous transformation within their chrysalis, emerging as fully-formed adult butterflies. Milkweed habitats provide the ideal environment for this metamorphosis to occur. Not only is milkweed the favored source of food, but the structure of milkweed plants, with their sturdy stems and broad leaves, offers ample space for Monarch chrysalises to hang securely until the butterflies emerge.

Fueling the Journey:
During their remarkable migration journeys, Monarch butterflies rely on milkweed for sustenance. Nectar from milkweed flowers serves as a vital energy source, fueling their long flights across continents. As they journey thousands of miles from their breeding grounds to overwintering sites and back again, Monarchs depend on the abundance of milkweed along their migratory routes.

Conservation Connection:
The decline of milkweed habitats poses a significant threat to Monarch populations. Factors such as habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change have led to a decline in milkweed availability across North America. Efforts to conserve and restore milkweed habitats are essential for ensuring the survival of Monarch butterflies. By planting milkweed in home gardens, individuals can contribute to the preservation of this vital butterfly species. Selecting the appropriate milkweed species is crucial for attracting Monarchs. While there are over 100 species of milkweed native to North America, some varieties are particularly favored by Monarchs, and many are region-specific.

Milkweed Species for Northeast and Midwest

In the Mid-Atlantic States, there are several native milkweed species that are crucial for Monarch Butterflies. Here are some of them, along with their details:

Common Milkweed (A. syriaca)
Common milkweed is perhaps the most well-known milkweed species.

It typically grows in tall clusters and produces pink to purplish flowers. It is most often found in a variety of habitats, including fields, meadows, and roadsides.

Swamp Milkweed (A. incarnata)
As the name suggests, swamp milkweed is often found in wetter habitats like marshes, wet meadows, and along stream banks. It has clusters of pink to mauve flowers. Swamp milkweed is an excellent choice for wetter areas where other milkweed species might not thrive.

Butterfly Weed (A. tuberosa)
Butterfly weed is known for its vibrant orange flowers and is a favorite among gardeners. It prefers well-drained soil and is often found in dry fields, along roadsides, and in open woods. While it’s not as commonly used by Monarch larvae as some other milkweed species, it’s still an important nectar source for adult butterflies.

Poke Milkweed (A. exaltata)
This milkweed species has tall, slender stems and delicate, pale pink flowers. It’s typically found in shaded woodlands and along forest edges. While it’s not as widespread as some other milkweed species, it’s still an important host plant for Monarch caterpillars where it occurs.

Whorled Milkweed (A. verticillata)
Whorled milkweed is characterized by its narrow leaves and small clusters of white flowers. It’s found in a variety of habitats, including dry fields, open woods, and roadsides. While it may not be as common as some other milkweed species, it’s still valuable for Monarch butterflies, particularly in areas where other milkweeds may not grow as well.

These native milkweed species will not only provide an essential habitat for Monarch Butterflies but also support other native pollinators in your area. Make sure to choose species that are appropriate for your specific region and growing conditions.

Cultivating Milkweed for Butterfly Abundance
Are you ready to invite the mesmerizing beauty of Monarch butterflies into your garden? Cultivating milkweed isn’t just about growing a plant; it’s about fostering an ecosystem, supporting biodiversity, and witnessing the awe-inspiring journey of one of nature’s most iconic creatures – the Monarch butterfly.

Now that you’ve chosen your milkweed varieties, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get gardening! Here’s a general step-by-step guide to growing milkweed in the garden to create a haven for Monarchs.

  1. Site Selection
    Choose a sunny spot in your garden with well-drained soil. Although some exceptions exist, most milkweed plants prefer full sun but can tolerate partial shade.
  2. Soil Preparation
    Milkweed isn’t overly picky about soil type but does prefer soil that’s not too compacted. Loosen the soil to a depth of about 6 inches and amend with compost if necessary.
  3. Planting
    Sow milkweed seeds directly in the ground in early spring after the danger of frost has passed. If you prefer to start with seedlings, transplant them into your garden with plenty of space between plants to accommodate their mature size.
  4. Watering
    Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged, especially during the plant’s early growth stages. Once established, milkweed is relatively drought-tolerant.
  5. Maintenance
    Milkweed is generally low-maintenance, but removing weeds around young plants can help them thrive. Deadheading spent flowers can encourage continuous blooming and prevent self-seeding if desired.
  6. Ongoing Support
    Embrace the biodiversity that milkweed attracts by avoiding the use of pesticides and herbicides in your garden. Encourage beneficial insects and pollinators to make themselves at home alongside your Monarchs.

As your milkweed garden flourishes, so too will the population of Monarch butterflies that grace your outdoor oasis. By cultivating milkweed, you’re not just growing a plant – you’re fostering a connection to nature, supporting wildlife conservation efforts, and creating a sanctuary for Monarchs to thrive. So, roll out the floral welcome mat and prepare to be enchanted by the majestic beauty of Monarch butterflies in your own backyard.