Are you ready for a lawn care revolution?

If you own a garden, you know how time-consuming it can be to take care of your lawn. You also know that a nice lawn is a great welcome to your visitors as well as a great playground for your kids. And let’s not forget the most beautiful lawn competitions in certain neighborhoods.

Independent of the reason you want to have a nice lawn, the steps to take to keep it green, soft and beautiful, are still the same.

Experts say that you should fertilize your lawn 3 or 4 times a year. Depending on the size of it, it might take you quite a bit of time to do it. Plus making sure the appropriate amount of fertilizer would be spread equally everywhere. While we can’t help you with everything, we can make your job just a bit easier. Try Scotts Snap Spreader System. It’s easy to use – the spreader’s Snap Pac connects directly to the Snap Spreader. The system automatically sets the proper flow rate making sure your fertilizer will be spread equally and in right amounts everywhere.

You don’t want to see the product on the sidewalks or anywhere else where it shouldn’t be. With a simple EdgeGuard feature you don’t have a problem with that anymore either. Plus you don’t have to worry about the mess, the spreader stays clean even after you have removed the Snap Pac – the automatic activation of the Snap Pac’s self-seal feature upon its removal takes care of that.

It’s easy, it’s clean and in addition to fertilizing your grass, you can also spread other products with it. Be it grass seed, insect killer or anything else.

Don’t forget to see the instruction videos below.

Plattsmouth School Board Considers Artificial Turf

Guest Posting by Bobby Quill

While many academic institutions across the country have already embraced artificial turf, others are discussing the idea and looking into artificial grass prices. The Journal reports that Plattsmouth Board of Education members heard advice from coaches and community members last month regarding a notion to install artificial turf on the Plattsmouth High School football field.

The group’s monthly workshop last month was attended by mostly members who approved the idea of replacing the field’s natural grass surface with artificial grass. According to the article, the board has spent the last few months collecting data and input from local citizens and researching artificial turf manufacturers.

 “The benefits of something like AstroTurf would be astronomical for our band program,” the PHS band instructor Zac Konrad told the paper. “I wanted to come here to tell you that this isn’t just an athletics issue. I’m really excited about the possibilities if this happens. It would help our marching band a lot to have a field to practice on every day.”

Just like residential artificial grass, the new surface would help the school save money on water and maintenance bills.

Dreams of an Outdoor Firepit

As I sit here staring at my gas fireplace, my thoughts go to an outdoor gas logs firepit. I love being outside. I love being in the hot tub on a crisp day. I tend to use my hot tub long after most people have shut theirs down for the season. What I have always wanted was a glassed in room overlooking the garden with a hot tub and a nice gas fireplace. Now don’t get me wrong wood burning fireplaces are great but once you have had a gas fireplace it is really hard to go go back to wood. With a wood fireplace you have to want to buy wood or pellets for them constantly. You have to keep adding wood or pellets to them while they are running to keep them working. Not to mention having to clean ash out of them and so on. It is so wonderful when you can just flip the switch and have a nice, warm fire in minutes. Gas logs are SO much easier to use and much more convenient.

So lets talk about what we will need to have a gas logs fireplace. First we need to determine what is the area our fireplace is going to be like; Is it indoors or is it outdoors? Can we use a ventless gas log or do we need a vent? Then, of course, we need to know what company would make us a great deal on all our gas log needs? One company I know of is Hansen Wholesale. Hansen is an exclusive dealer for R. H. Peterson Real Fyre Gas Logs. They guarantee the lowest price, which is a tough claim to make these days on the internet, but they make it. Hansen Wholesale has been making this guarantee since they opening in 1994. Perhaps the best news of all is that Hansen Wholesale is currently running a $75 additional discount AND no sales tax AND FREE shipping!!! – Now how is THAT for a heck of a deal.

The shocking part of the whole gas logs fireplace decision isn’t the price, it is how many different types, styles, and options there is to choose from. That is why I love the Gas Log FAQ which helps you determine not only what there is available, but what you are looking for, how things work, why they work that way and what will work best for you.

So why not; let’s have a gas logs firepit in our backyard or screen porch area and enjoy the outdoors even more. Think of how much longer (maybe even all year long) we can enjoy the outdoors if we have a nice, blazing fire to cuddle up to while we watch the sunset.

Houseplant Basics 101: Fertilizer

All houseplants need fertilizer to supplement their diets. Think of it as a good shot of vitamins and minerals. Although your houseplants feed on light and the nutrients in the soil, a boost of fertilizer can help to promote and support strong, healthy growth.

Fertilizers contain three major nutrients to support stem and leaf production, flowering and healthy roots. These elements are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Whenever you look at a container of fertilizer, pay close attention to the fertilizer analysis which is represented by three hyphenated numbers. For example, it may look something like this: 20-20-20 or 10-6-16, or 10-15-10 like on this bottle of “SCHULTZ” LIQUID PLANT FOOD PLUS . The first number always represents the available nitrogen in the fertilizer. The second number always represents the available phosphate and the third number always represents the available potash in the fertilizer. The higher the number, the greater the percentage by weight of that nutrient.

Houseplants require nitrogen for leafy growth. As a general rule, houseplants that are grown primarily for their foliage will require a fertilizer with a high first number, a lower second number and a third number that is comparable to the first. Houseplants that are grown primarily for their blooms are given a fertilizer with a high third number (K or potash) that promotes flower development.

Fertilizers are most beneficial to a plant during its growing season, which is February to October. During the winter months when there is less light, you will want to hold back on fertilizing unless your houseplant is beginning to show signs of new growth. Your houseplant’s consumption of fertilizer will follow its growth curve, which in turn follows a light and temperature curve.

General Rules for Fertilizing

  • Granular and liquid fertilizers work similarly. Be sure to read the instructions and mix and feed accordingly.

  • Hold off fertilizing for at least a few weeks after houseplants are repotted. It isn’t that your houseplant doesn’t need food; it is that they only need so much. Most soils contain unknown amounts of fertilizers and it is easy to overfeed your transplant.

  • Water until water flows out the bottom of the container. This step will flush out any built up soluble salt deposits. As salts become more concentrated, it becomes harder for a houseplant to take up a proper supply of water.

What is your favorite fertilizer to use in your houseplants? Leave me a comment and share.

Out! Out! Garden Pests

grasshopper.JPGOne of the biggest problems in the garden at this time of year are pests. These pests can either be insects or mammals. Both of them can decimate a garden and neither one is necessarily better than the other. In light of this problem, I found a great article and post for you by Debra Roby. Here is some of what she had to say:

My approach to pests in the garden or landscape is usually to adopt a technique that is least harmful to the general environment while being highly destructive to the pest itself. So I often use soap, dusts, hot pepper and young men to deal with my pests. Except for muskrats. They actually drove me to buy a .22. But let’s hope your garden invasions don’t end up resorting to that degree of destructive power.

More than likely your invaders this time of year come in one of two varieties: insect or mammal. What can you do to discourage, or eliminate the problem if each case?

Insects:

In many of the spring/fall vegetables, planting time is the most important factor in preventing damage. If you plant brassicas, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, beets and swish chard as soon as the soil can be worked but before the first frost-free day, the plants become established and you can pick a crop before warmer weather brings on insect invasions. So it’s too late for early spring plantings, keep in mind that any open garden space come mid- to late-September might be prime territory for a fall crop of these goodies.

Good commercial organic pest controls include Safer Soap, (dehydrates the dasterdly things) diatomaceous earth, (cuts softs bodied insects to shreds. like mini-glass shards) horticultural oils, (smothers those suckers!) and floating row covers (if the pests can’t get in they can’t eat it). ‘Bacillus thurengiensis’, or Bt and it’s known to gardeners everywhere is a bacteria you can apply as the insect worms are appearing. It is deadly to the invaders, but does not harm humans, birds or other animals. Look for it commercial by name or as Dipel.

—-Debra Roby

To read the rest of what Debra has to say, please click here. Now, while you are reading her advice, I’m off to rid my garden and lawn of some pesky grasshoppers. I’ll tell you more about that later. What pests drive you crazy in the garden?

Photo provided by almogaver

More Common Disease Problems in Roses

roses-5.jpgYesterday we began discussing the many disease problems which can affect your roses. We covered how to diagnose and treat three different disease problems such gall, powdery mildew and downy mildew. Today we are going to talk about three more diseases which are common in roses and how to treat them.

Symptom: Yellow blotches on upper surfaces of leaves, small powdery orange or black postules on underside of mature leaves.

Cause: Rust—This is a fungal disease that may appear when days are warm and nights are cool and moist.

Treatment: Ensure that the rose plants have good air circulation and ample sunlight. If further treatment is necessary, you will need to treat with a fungicidal treatment that is listed for rust control.

Symptom: Brown dieback of cut canes; brown fuzzy mold on debris around the rose plant. In severe cases, the entire flower bud rots.

Cause: Botrytis blight (grey mold)—This fungal growth favors rainy cool periods or nights with high humidity.

Treatment: Remove all of the damaged areas of the rose plant and clean up leaves and debris from below the plant to prevent the fungus from spreading. Maintain good air circulation around your roses.

Symptoms: Dark black spots with irregular edges on the leaves. The spots tend to be round, varying in size from pinpoint to quarter-sized. Half of leaf yellows or leaf drops completely from the rose plant.

Cause: Black spot—This fungal disease favors rainy weather, poor air circulation or improper watering.

Treatment: Spray-Dust-Watering technique. After winter pruning, apply a dormant lime-sulphur spray. Remove dropped leaves and other debris. During the growing season, spray with fungicides listing rose black spot as a target on a rotational basis. Fungus spores are found on the undersides of leaves, so spray upward from underneath the rose plant. Spray in the early morning when the weather is calm and cool. Water your roses early to allow the foliage to dry thoroughly.

Now that you know some of the most common disease problems in roses, which ones have you had experience with? What have you done to control or eradicate the disease? Leave me a comment and share.

Photo Provided by FreeFoto

Identifying and Treating Diseases in Roses

roses-4.jpgLast week we began discussing the many different problems which are common in roses and are caused by insects. We discussed how to diagnose and treat insect problems such as beetles, rose midge, leaf cutter bees, rose cane borers, aphids, thrips, leaf rollers and spider mites. This week we are going to address several more common problems which may be affecting your roses, such as disease and how to treat those problems.

Symptom: Tumor-like growths on canes, roots, or at the bud union.

Cause: Gall (aerial, crown or root)—This is a bacterial pathogen that enters through a wound on your rose plant or by a pruning tool that is contaminated.

Treatment: Prune away any sections which are infected if possible. Sterilize your pruning shears and other hand tools with bleach or alcohol to prevent the bacteria from spreading. Any plants which are seriously weakened should be destroyed. You will need to treat the soil with a bactericide or leave it fallow for two seasons before you replant.

Symptom: White powdery material appears on young growth.

Cause: Powdery Mildew—This is a fungal disease that is fostered by warm days and cool nights.

Treatment: At first you should try spraying the affected areas with a solution of baking soda and dish soap. Make sure that the plants have good air circulation and an ample amount of sunlight. If you need to treat your roses further, then you will need to treat them with a fungicidal product for powdery mildew control.

Symptom: Dark, irregular splotches on foliage, dropping of apparently healthy leaves, sections of yellow leaves.

Cause: Downy Mildew—This is a fungal disease that may appear when nights are cool and humid. This mildew can develop very rapidly.

Treatment: Water your rose plants early in the day to allow the surface of them to dry thoroughly. Avoid overhead irrigation and prevent water from collecting around the plants. Cut the defoliated plant back. Clean up any debris and then dust with sulfur. Then spray the roses with a fungicide that lists downy mildew as a target.

Which of the above problems do you have or have had with your roses? Which methods have you used to eradicate the disease? Leave me a comment and share. Tomorrow I will discuss problems with rust, blight and black spot in your roses.

Photo provided by FreeFoto

More Common Insect Problems in Roses

roses-3.jpgYesterday we began discussing the many different insect problems which are common in roses. We discussed how to diagnose and treat insect problems such as aphids, thrips, leaf rollers and spider mites. Today we are going to address four more insect problems which are common in roses and how to treat those problems.

Symptom: Leaves have been eaten leaving a skeletal structure. Unopened flower buds chewed and opened flower buds damaged.

Cause: Beetles—The most notorious of these is the Japanese beetle. These beetles are a metallic brown color with a green head. The same symptoms can also be caused by caterpillars.

Treatment: An effective and practical approach is to spread plastic or a cloth on the ground and gently shake the plants to remove the beetles. If you place them away from your roses, then traps are also effective. You will want to spray your roses with an insecticide that lists beetles as a target pest. Your roses will need to be sprayed when the problem is first detected, either in the spring or the late summer. If the beetles are in the larvae stage, then Spinosad will work very well on them or on caterpillars. Remember, that Spinosad is an organic chemical that will control most of the insect problems in your roses.

Symptom: Drooping, unopened buds, accompanied by a small discolored stem slightly below the bud.

Cause: Rose Midge—this is a small fly that pupates in the ground below the rose bush. Midges fly up and lay their eggs in the soft upper stem of the rose plant. The hatched larvae then eat the stems and cause breakage.

Treatment: Spread a systemic insecticide granule on the ground to control the pests. Sprays are of a very limited value with the rose midge because of their development below the ground. Spinosad may work to kill the active insects on the plant, and I would be willing to try it.

Symptom: Holes in pruned cane ends. Circular pieces cut from leaf margins.

Cause: Leaf cutter bees—these insects use the circular leaf pieces for egg partitions inside of the burrowed rose cane.

Treatment: Control by applying white glue to the cane ends. The leaf cutter bee is a beneficial insect in the garden as it is an effective garden pollinator. I strongly recommend against eradication of this insect. Instead, I recommend using the above preventative measure to lessen any damage to your roses.

Symptom: Wilting and dying foliage at the top of the rose bush. Leaves may turn yellow and drop off the plant.

Cause: Rose cane borer—These pests are the larvae of sawflies, some wasps and bees. The rose cane borer enters the rose from the top of any pruned rose canes. These pests search for freshly pruned stems of the rose plant to lay their eggs on in the late spring or early summer. The eggs then hatch and the larvae bore their way by eating into the center of the rose plant down the length of the rose cane.

Treatment: The most effective method of treatment is to prune the rose bush below any area of damage. You may need to prune the cane a couple of times to find an area that is not damaged. Then you will want to place a little dab of white glue over the pruning cut. This will prevent the insects from successfully laying new eggs on the freshly pruned rose plant. Another idea to aid in prevention is to try some companion planting. These insects do not seem to like Allium, so planting some near your rose bushes may help to repel them.

Now that you know some of the most common insect problems with roses, which ones have you had experience with? Leave me a comment and share.

Photo provided by FreeFoto

Identifying and Treating Insect Problems in Roses

roses-2.jpgWhen your roses are given the proper attention and a healthy environment, they will stay healthy and will flourish for many years. However, even under the best of conditions, your roses may on occasion suffer some form of disease or be troubled by common pests. Inadequate drainage, poor soil, insufficient water, lack of nutrition or other environmental problems may encourage pests and disease to take hold of your roses.

Roses may be affected by either environmental conditions or living pathogens. If you find that the damage to your roses is uniform, then it is usually an environmental or cultural problem that you are dealing with. However, if there is visible damage that is not uniform, then you are usually dealing with a problem with living pathogens.

Today and tomorrow I will discuss how to identify and treat the most common insect problems in your roses. Next week I will discuss how to identify and treat the most common diseases which may affect your roses.

Symptoms: Masses of small insects on the buds and leaves.

Cause: Aphids—these are green, red or black bugs which are soft and about 1/8” long. They can be found in clusters and will be found mainly on the new growth. These pests appear in the spring and can remain all summer.

Treatment: You will want to begin by simply hosing the insects off of the rose plant with water. Should you need to treat the problem further, then most of the commercial insecticidal sprays are effective. You can also use a solution of household dish soap and water. This is done by using just a few drops of dish soap in a quart spray bottle and filling it up with water. Then just spray it on your roses. There are also many aerosol insecticides labeled for plant pests that will also work. Just be sure to read the label on the product to verify which insects the product will control. Spray the product upwind and ensure that you apply a coverage that is thorough. Or if you want to just make life easy on yourself, go to your local garden center and purchase a product called Spinosad. This is an organic chemical that will control most insect problems in your roses.

Symptom: Buds are distorted and bloom tips appear discolored.

Cause: Thrips—these are light brown insects which are very slender and are about 1/8” long. These insects can appear inside petals and they move very quickly. They are spread by the wind.

Treatment: You will want to apply a systemic insecticide that lists thrips as a target. You will want to apply this when new growth of 1” or more emerges in the spring. Contact treatments can be used on a rotational basis when the rose buds are pea-sized. Or, just make life easy on your self and go and get some Spinosad from your local garden center.

Symptom: Leaves stuck together, unopened buds with holes.

Cause: Omnivorous leaf roller—this is a moth larvae that makes a cocoon type of structure with leaves.

Treatment: Remove all of the cocoon structures from your rose plant. If you need to treat your rose plant further, then apply a systemic insecticide that targets leaf rollers when new growth of 1” or more emerges in the spring. Contact treatments can also be used on a rotational basis when the buds of the roses are pea-sized. Personally, I just use the Spinosad as it is easier.

Symptom: Leaves appear fuzzy and yellow on surface; underside has small red specks, webbing or spider-like insects may be seen.

Cause: Spider mite (red spider or 2-spotted mite)—these insects are microscopic in size, but are visible to the naked eye. Spider mites thrive in hot weather.

Treatment: Apply an insecticidal soap, horticultural oils, miticides, or high pressure hose water, or my favorite product, Spinosad. All of the treatments must be applied to the underside of the leaves of the rose plant, in order to come into contact with the spider mites. Keep the roses well watered during hot weather and avoid dust on the leaves of your plants.

Tomorrow I will discuss Beetles, Rose Midge, Leaf Cutter Bees and Rose Cane Borer. Which of the above treatments do you favor for the treatment of your roses? Leave me a comment and share.

Photo provided by Major-Maróthy Szabolcs

Chives in the Lawn

chives.JPGWhile chives are a good addition to a fabulous recipe, most people don’t care for them in their lawn. Getting rid of pesky chives or wild onions in your lawn can be difficult and frustrating, but there are a few things you can do. If you don’t mind having the purple flowers in your lawn that the chives or wild onions provide, or you like the onion smell they emit each time you mow your lawn, then you can just ignore them and do nothing. But if you want to get rid of them, here are a few options.

Of course the simplest method is to dig them up every time you see them in your lawn. This is effective and organic, but it is time consuming and they can still spread if you are not careful.

Another method is to use a product such as Hi-Yield Kill-Zall or Round Up. These products contain a chemical called glyphosate. This chemical is effective because it works on killing all plant tissue. It is a non-selective weed killer. This means that it will kill not only the weeds in your lawn, but the grass too. Depending on the severity of the chive problem you have, this can make your lawn not appear very pretty until enough time has passed and you can re-seed your lawn. This is usually within 14 days from when you sprayed the chemical to begin with. Sometimes it will be even longer, because you will need to do more than one application of the chemical for your chive problem to disappear. So if you don’t mind waiting awhile to re-seed your lawn and then waiting for it to re-grow, then this may be the option you will choose.

Another option that is new to the market is to use a product called Weed-Free Zone by Fertilome. This product is a selective weed killer for lawns. It will kill the unwanted weeds in your lawn without damaging or killing your grass. The label includes wild onions/garlic which belongs to the same family as the wild chive. By following the directions on the label, and targeting and applying to the patches of the wild chive you should have success in eradicating this nuisance plant from your lawn. I actually like to use this product for all of my weed problems in my lawn. It is very effective on mallow, clover and dandelions. I like how it kills the weeds and leaves the healthy grass intact.

Getting rid of wild chives or wild onions in your lawn can be a nightmare. However, with diligence and persistence, you can knock them out and have that healthy lawn you crave for the summer. Which method will you choose to eradicate the chives and wild onions from your lawn?

Photo by Matthew Bridges