The past 2 years have been a lesson in dealing with extremes, extreme dry conditions, extreme wet conditions, extreme hot & cold. There are several things you can do to help your plants cope.
1. Choose plants that like wet conditions – annuals like Impatiens and many tropicals (Hibiscus), perennials like Hosta, Astilbe, Joe Pye Weed & Iris. See our plant databases for notes on which plants like “Consistent” water.
2. Grow in containers – many containers, especially clay, dry out faster than planting in the ground, so you can grow many other annuals that would get too soggy in the ground. Hanging baskets are great, since you can always move them under cover if the weather gets really bad. For pots on the ground, put pot feet under to get space between the pot & the ground/deck/patio, so water can drain away easily. This will also reduce the places for earwigs to hide.
3. Mound up ground beds – adding potting soil & compost will help dry out the ground initially, but mound up the beds 6-8″ (depends on the size of the bed) and sloped back to the edge, so that water drains away faster & doesn’t sit around plants.
4. Deadhead & Clean – wet conditions are a breeding ground for fungus, especially botrytis & powdery mildew. Botrytis, also known as gray mold, usually shows up when blooms & fruit get wet & start decaying before they can dry off. Powdery mildew is usually a silver grey fuzziness on leaves. The best remedy for both is to get lots of sun & air movement, so plants can dry off. Granted that’s pretty hard when it keeps raining. Clean off any dead blooms, fruit or foliage that starts getting moldy or mushy. Powdery mildew can be treated with products like Bi-Carb that we carry (basically is old-fashioned baking soda to mix with water & spray on foliage).
Many of the above apply to vegetables, such as growing in containers or mounded beds, but another recommendation if you are still planning to put in your garden is to look at mulching with plastic to reduce the amount of rain soaking in to the garden and keeping soil from splashing onto foliage. If we turn dry later in the summer, you can punch holes in the plastic to allow rain thru or remove the plastic entirely.
Also, look at planting hybrid vegetables, since they tend to be earlier to fruit, more vigorous, and often bred for specific disease resistance.
With major snow cover and late spring conditions, the deer and rabbits are desperate for food. If you’ve had problems in the past, especially with deer, the best is to start early with repellent before they can do major damage. There are a number of possible repellents, with pros & cons. Granular repellents are easier to apply and work great for low growing plants, particularly against rabbits, but not as good for deer, as they will eat plants far enough above the granular repellent.
For deer, spray repellents are still the most effective, as you can cover tall plants where they reach them, and more importantly you have the double factor of smell and taste to stop them from eating and keep them away. Some sprays need to be applied after rains, but many customers swear by Plantskydd for the longest lasting spray even after rain. Click here for more tips on applying Plantskydd
My hope every year is that the severe winter killed all the bugs in the area, but I know that’s not probable as I see boxelder bugs coming to life around the house. The past few years new bugs started appearing in the area, like the Japanese Beetle (pictured above) that others in the Twin Cities or Wisconsin have been battling for a few years already.
There are 3 main things you can do for Japanese beetles, kill them as a grub in the soil, spray them or pick them off and put in soapy water to kill. We have a spray specifically for Japanese beetles to battle them now that you’re seeing them, but if you have neem oil or something already on hand, read the instructions to see if it covers them. We also have Grub Beaterfor the grub stage to get rid of them early before they become adults. Word of warning- there are pheromone traps that attract and then trap them, but they can be more of a problem, since they can attract a TON of them to your yard that you wouldn’t see without the pheromone. Your neighbors may thank you.
The other bug that is getting more attention in the state, is the Emerald Ash Borer that can destroy ash trees quickly. We also have a product that can protect your ash trees, side benefit is that it also kills Japanese beetles. Ask when you visit.
Below are care sheets on what to look for & how to get rid of the more common bugs, as well as other fungus & diseases.
With the late spring, many of us have not been able to get into the garden to prepare it for the next growing season, much less plant potatoes & onions that we normally would by now. Here are some tips for getting stared:
1. If you don’t have your own compost pile to add organic material to your garden, make sure to pick up some Quarry Hill compost. Usually 2 bags will cover 40 sq ft (1-2″ deep).
2. If you’ve had issues with weeds, especially weed seed germinating in your garden, you can use products like Preen to stop seeds from germinating. Another method is to lay black plastic over the area (of course pin down the sides) and let the sun do the work for several weeks. No only will it kill the weed seeds & plants, but in warm up the soil faster and get it ready faster for warm loving plants like tomatoes & peppers.
3. While you’re waiting for the ground to warm up, you can put a few herbs & vegetables in containers for a faster harvest. Place the containers in full sun along the south side of your house or building, so that they stay protected from cold northern winds. The plants will grow faster, and you’ll be able to enjoy them earlier than the garden. Make sure to fertilize withDaniel’s liquid fertilizer, since they will not have any organic matter like the garden would.
4. If you’ve had problems with bugs or disease, try moving vegetables around in the garden. Putting tomatoes/eggplant in the same spot year after year can create disease pressure in the soil that will attack your new plants. If you can’t move things around, try disease resistant varieties or hybrids that can handle more adverse conditions. Of course, be prepared with bug sprays like Captain Jack’s Deadbug that is very effective and safe to use.
Plant Stress Kills
Temperature – We’re all anxious for Spring and warm weather, but one of the worst things to do is put a plant out before it’s warm enough. A few plants, like pansies & petunias love the cool temps, but they are still too tender coming from the greenhouse to take temps below 40’F. For many plants, like geraniums and tomatoes, they need a minimum of 50’F or they can show signs of stress (loss of leaves, yellowing, stunted growth) setting them back for several weeks or more. And for some plants, like tomatoes, if they drop below 50’F they may be permanently stunted.
Typically we can see a frost up until Memorial Day weekend, so it is best to wait until then to plant any of the warm weather plants. If you do take home plants before that time, you will need to make sure to protect them from low temps (bringing inside at night), but keep in mind that plants need to get light, so you can’t leave them inside (especially a garage) during the day. If you can’t take them in at night, the next best is to cover with large plastic buckets or sheets/blankets before dusk. If you are covering them, try to keep the material from touching the plants, so that they have an air pocket between them and the cold air outside the covering. DO NOT cover them with sheets of plastic, as the plants will freeze wherever the plastic touches them.
Light – When you first buy a plant and take it home, you should “harden it off” by placing it in the sun for a few hours during the morning and in the shade during the afternoon so that it doesn’t get sunburned. Each day you can increase the time in the sun until it’s at the appropriate amount (Part Sun=less than 6 hours, Full Sun=more than 6 hours). When the temperatures increase the roof of our greenhouse opens, so plants get direct sun and are quicker to transition once you take them home.
Hail – Last year many of you suffered a tough spring including Hail. As long as there’s some foliage, the plants should recover Hail, especially under warmer weather, but realize it may take several weeks to see major improvements. For plants that have been entirely stripped, unfortunately you’ll have to wait and see if they are able to re-grow.
NOTE: If a plant has been stressed by cold, hail, etc. the worst thing is to stress it even more by over-watering! Make sure to check the moisture (either by the weight of a basket/pot or by testing the soil with your finger) before giving any plant water. Don’t assume a plant needs water if it looks a little wilted, since this could be a sign of a stressed plant that does NOT need water. Also keep in mind that a stressed plant is more susceptible to root diseases and pests!
Give your Perennials time!
WARNING! Many perennials, like Hibiscus and Butterfly Bush, need lots of heat before they begin to sprout. If you’re unsure if a plant is alive you can dig in the soil around the base of the plant and if the plant feels firm and solid, give it more time (possibly as late as July 1) before pulling it out. But if it’s mushy and soft, it has probably died from root rot (being too wet over the winter/spring).
NOTE: The largest cause of plants not surviving the winter is often root rot. If you want to increase the survival rate of any new perennials, mound the plant up high, so that water drains away from the base of the plant.
Also, now’s the time to clean up the pond & start working on keeping algae under control. Experts say you should empty your pond & power wash off any algae or decomposing material from the rocks every 2 years, so that you start fresh. Click here for a great checklist of steps to getting your pond started this spring.
You can also start bringing pond plants out of storage or up from the bottom of the pond to begin growing. BUT it’s too early to get new water plants yet, since water temperatures need to be 60’F before even hardy water lilies will grow well. Our water plants should be here by early May & I will confirm when they arrive, but in the meantime, click here to see the water plants on order
Below are additional care sheets for more specific recommendations: