Tips From the Pros

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Summer's finally here, which means we as gardeners are either worried about our plants drying out, or getting oversaturated from the plentiful rain.
There's no question that we experience a fair amount of rain during the summer months in Western North Carolina, and we have seen recent flooding. We've got gardening tips on the best practices for your garden this summer. 

Garden Care
If it doesn’t rain, water new seeds and transplants daily until established. Water mature plants as needed. Frequency will depend on rainfall and temperature. Check the soil for moisture, and watch plants for symptoms of drought stress (leaves drooping in the morning or early evening). Soil in the vegetable garden should be kept moist but not muddy. Knowing the type of soil in your garden will help you determine how frequently it should be watered. A soil that is heavy with lots of clay will need to be watered less frequently than a soil that is lighter with lots of air pockets, such as a sandy soil or container garden soil.

Fertilize only as needed following the recommendations on your soil analysis. Crops with long growing seasons, such as corn and tomatoes, may need additional fertilizer partway through the growing season. Watch for symptoms of nitrogen and other nutrient deficiency (including leaves turning yellow and slow growth). Avoid the urge to overfertilize, which can produce lush plant growth but decrease flowering and fruit development and increase pest problems.

Mulch to maintain moisture and manage weeds. One to two inches of weed-free loose mulch (including shredded leaves, grass clippings (seed-free), wheat straw, and pine bark mulch) or five to six layers of newspaper should be enough to keep weeds down and the soil moist.

Caring for roses can be tricky! Here are a few tips to help you out:
In summer remove old flowers and prune just above a five or seven leaf branch. This will encourage your bush to fill in and spread out. When you are cleaning up rose bushes, always look for a few things:

Crossing Branches – Rose bushes like air, they don’t do well with dense foliage. Look for crossing branches and make small diagonal snips to prevent branches from crossing and rubbing.

Damaged Stems – If you happen to find any damaged stems make a diagonal cut just below the damaged stem. Removing damaged stems will allow the rose bushes to have new growth creating a stronger and healthier rose bush.

Disease – Watch for any fungus or insect problems on your roses. Black spot and beatles are common problems for rose bushes.

If you happen to find black spot, cut it away from the plant, disinfect your pruners and throw the disease into a closed trash can.
Roses make a wonderful addition to our gardens but require a moderate amount of attention.

Planting annuals in beds or pots marks the beginning of a season-long show of eye-catching flowers and leaves. Annuals race through the growing season, unfurling flowers and colorful foliage until frost arrives on the scene. Knowing when to plant annuals helps get the seasonal show off to a solid start. Understanding how to plant annual flowers is the other key to success. 



Some annuals thrive in cooler seasons of the year, while others need a little summer sizzle to strut their stuff. Typically garden centers sell the appropriate annuals for the season at hand—or soon to come. If in doubt, ask. This is especially important in early spring, when summer annuals have started their growing season in the cozy confines of a warm greenhouse. Once they enter the world of cool spring nights, they often stop growing. For these heat-loving annuals, planting too early can pronounce a death sentence as chilly air and cool soil causes plants to stall or even rot. 



The ideal time to plant is on a cloudy day. This protects newly planted annuals from having sun stress seedlings as they’re settling into their new digs. Another option is to tackle planting chores in the evening, which gives plants the overnight window to recover. If you must plant on a sunny day, consider erecting some sort of shade device to protect seedlings. A piece of cardboard or bedding plant flat propped up to cast shade works fine. 



Before planting annuals in a bed, it’s a good idea to arrange plants—in their pots—in the pattern you’ll follow when planting. If you’re planting a container, arrange pots on the work surface beside the pot. With in-ground beds, finesse the spacing based on mature plant size. Give plants enough room to spread and soar.

 

It’s not hard to master how to plant annuals. Water any annuals that are dry before removing them from cell packs or pots. Root balls should be moist at planting time. Never pull annuals from their containers—that’s a good way to break stems. Instead, remove plants from their containers by gently squeezing the pot and then flipping it over, cradling the annual stem with your hand. It should slip right out. 



Use your hand or a trowel to dig a shallow hole large enough to cradle an annual’s root ball. If you’re planting many annuals, try the method professional landscapers use: the stab-and-plant technique. Hold a trowel with the blade facing down and the concave side facing you. Stick the trowel into soil, and pull the handle forward, creating a hole behind the blade. Slip the annual from its container and drop it into the hole, firming soil around the plant. This method works best with loose soil. 



Always water annuals after planting. Use a watering can or hose-end sprayer or watering wand that delivers a gentle shower of water. Soak soil thoroughly. Add a mulch layer to slow water evaporation from soil and help reduce weeds.

-From HGTV.com

Proper mowing increases the density of the lawn, which in turn decreases weeds. Each type of grass has a recommended mowing height. Find out which type of grass is in your lawn (you may have more than one) and mow at the proper height.
Stick to the 1/3 rule — never remove more than 1/3 of the grass blade length at any one time. A healthy lawn can survive an occasional close cut. Repeated close mowing produces a brown lawn and has several harmful side effects, including:
• Injury to the crown, where new growth generates and nutrients are stored.
• Reduction of the surface area of the blade, making the blade surface insufficient to produce food through photosynthesis.
• Increased vulnerability to pests and disease.
• An increase in the sunlight reaching weed seeds, allowing them to germinate.
• Risk of soil compaction.
 
Also remember to:
• Mow when the grass is dry. The blades will be upright and less likely to clump when cut.
• Avoid mowing in the heat of the day to prevent heat stress on your grass and yourself.
• Keep mower blades sharp and balanced. Ragged cuts made by dull blades increase the chance of disease and pests.
• Change the mowing pattern each time you mow. Grass develops a grain based on your cutting direction, tending to lean towards the direction you mow. Alternating the pattern causes more upright growth and helps avoid producing ruts in the lawn.
• Mow moving forward, whether you're pushing a walk-behind mower or sitting behind the wheel of a lawn tractor.
• Discharge the clippings (unless you bag them) towards the area you have already cut.
• Leave clippings on the lawn unless they form clumps or rows. This technique (known as grass cycling) returns nutrients and nitrogen to the lawn.
• Consider using a mulching mower or mulching attachments.
• If you bag your clippings, consider composting them.
• Mow grass higher in shaded areas under trees. In these areas grass has to compete with tree roots for water and nutrients.
• Reduce mowing frequency and raise the mowing height of cool-season grasses when hot, dry weather slows their growth rate.
• Follow the proper fertilizing schedule for your type of turfgrass.
Here are some tips from the NC Cooperative Extension Center:
 Plant your small fruit plants, grape vines and fruit trees before the buds break.  March is a good month to transplant trees and shrubs New shrubs and ground covers can be planted the entire month of March. Be sure to follow your planting plan. Plant seeds of the following perennials: columbine, hollyhock, coreopsis, daisy and phlox. Sweet William can also be planted this month. New rose bushes can be planted this month. Plants of broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower should be set out in the garden in mid-March. The following vegetables can be planted this month: beets, carrots, Chinese cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, Swiss chard, turnips, potatoes,cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Start any annual flowers or warm-season vegetables inside your home that are not commercially available in early March.

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