Watering, Bugs, and The Heat!

Watering, Bugs, and The Heat!

Well sooner or later, we knew it would happen....The rain would stop, the sun would come out and bam, 80-90 degree weather would be upon us!
The past couple of weeks have been crazy with heat indexes reaching over 90. It was miserable just walking a few feet thanks to the high humidity. As we enter these dog days of summer, watering of newly planted trees and shrubs is always a concern...
The number one factor to achieve a successful plant taking root is proper watering. Now if you planted early, and you got to take advantage of the rains we had, you were lucky enough to get your plants well established.
Now if you recently planted any type of living plant, here are some tips to aid in proper watering. 
1) The number one thing you need to know is when to water! So many of my clients want me to tell them, water every 3 days or once a week and commit to a pre-planned time and day of the week. That would be great if we lived in an area where the weather was consistently the same every day. Unfortunately, the weather in Ohio changes dramatically and it can be 80 degrees one day, followed by snow the next. Rain, wind, sun and humidity all factor into the equation of deciding whether to water or not to water. Now if you have hanging baskets or pots, a simple weight test is easy to do. Push up or pick up the basket or pot and feel the weight of the plant. A heavier plant indicates there is more moisture in the soil than a lightweight plant which will dictate it is dry. 
For plants in the ground, I like to use a coat hanger bent straight or a pencil. Simply push the item into the root ball of a tree or shrub and pull it out similar to checking your oil in your car. Examine the end of the coat hanger.  If it is muddy, the plant is too wet. If you can not get the coat hanger into the root ball or it is dusty, water immediately. If a little soil clings to the coat hanger, that plant is adequately moist, wait till another day.
2) How much should you give your plant? I love to deep water plants when they are dry and in need of water. By deep watering and soaking the plant, roots will go deeper and have a better chance of survival. Frequent shallow waterings create shallow roots. By deep watering, I mean to turn your hose on to a 1/4" wide slow trickle. Set the hose at the base of the tree or shrub and allow the water to slowly soak into the base of the plant. For small shrubs, 3- 5 minutes is usually enough time. For ornamental trees, a 10 minute soaking is good. Evergreens and large trees 2" in diameter requite 15 minutes to adequately soak the root balls. For larger trees, add 15 minutes to time for each inch of diameter of the trunk larger than 2".
I do not like sprinklers being used, as a lawn spray wave 1 hour in one spot will only yield 1/4" of water in depth of moisture. Hose end sprayers that you can create several different streams, bubbling or waves do not do the job either. A Dramm watering wand with a breaker at the end that softens the water into a gentle spray is a great investment and is used by professionals in ALL greenhouses and nurseries.  IF you do use a watering wand, I always go over a plant three to five times with a shower of water. Start on the first one, move to the second and third, then repeat 4-5 times to make sure plants get deep watered. Again, we want plants to be well watered and create deep roots. This is how you do it.
3)Fertilizing-Annuals in hanging baskets need to be fertilized once every 3-4 waterings to keep them beautiful, green and producing tons of flowers in baskets or containers. A shot of 20-20-20 water soluble food mixed in with your water can at the rate of one tablespoon per gallon will yield amazing results. This product is great for a quick burst of food which the plant can take up through its leaves as well as its roots. For longer continuous feeding all year, osmocote or dynamite is like a slow release tic tac that freshens your breath for 6-9 months but in this case feeds for that long.
As for trees and shrubs, I love Espoma brand holly-tone or plant-tone fertilizers. These products when used when planting and again in the fall and next spring provide 15 of the essential 18 nutrients to make plants not just survive but thrive. Water, air and sunlight are the only things this product is lacking. Garden-tone is a great 4-6 week feeder for the garden and their tomato-tone has added calcium to aid in reducing the leathery brown patch that sometimes forms on tomatoes due to lack of calcium.
Now onto beetles... Some communities have been inundated with Japanese beetles and others have not. A spray of liquid seven or eight will keep them away.  Soon they will be retreating to healthy lawns and laying larvae which will turn into grubs which will eat your roots. Now is the time to put down a season-long grub control and still have it be effective for prevention. If you have not done this yet, I would advise moving this to the top of your things to do list.
Another beetle, the black flea beetle is causing havoc for nurseries and homeowners all over. This little pin head size black beetle eats holes in any burgundy or red leaf plant. From sedum, to ninebark to flowering plum and weigelias, it loves to eat. This menace does not stop there!! It loves hydrangeas too. Although it does not cause deadly damage, this nuisance pest makes plants have holes or brown spots on many leaves. The best curative product I have found is spinosad soap from fertilome. This spray is organic and is a contact kill as well as offers a residual to prevent future beetles from coming. I feel the spray lasts about 10 days and then needs to be reapplied. These flea beetles have way too many generations which seem to increase every year and I believe the number one nuisance pest of the nursery business.  Stay on the lookout for these hungry creatures.
It is also a great time to spray a systemic spray on your pines for the white bumps called pine needle scale. This insect is in its second hatching stage and now is the best time to eliminate them on your pines. Take a close look at your needles, if you see any white bumps on the needles, get in and get your spray.
I have also had a lot of clients coming in with samples of plants with powdery mildew and all sorts of fungus diseases starting thanks to a few cool days followed by super hot days. Its just a great combination to breed diseases. Copper soaps or Fungonil are both pretty broad spectrum cure all's for most diseases. If you see strange "baby powder " like substances on your plants, or yellow to red to black spots, you are getting a fungus. Bring us in a sample and we can show you what to use to cure it. It looks like it is going to be another crazy year with insects and diseases. Remember, we are here to help. Send us an email, or bring us a picture in.
In closing, I hope you enjoyed the cool days we have had this past few weeks. I know I sure have. It was a nice break. This roller coaster of above normal highs and then below normal lows seems to be here to stay. At least we did not get the 100 degree weather that Texas had this past week. Hoping we do not reach triple digits! Stay cool my friends!
J.R. Pandy, "The No B.S.Gardener"
Pandy's Premier Garden Center
440-324-4314
www.pandysgardencenter.com

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