What to do this week –By Mark Govan, Host
Fertilization of our ornamental landscape plants and turf grasses are very important to root
formation and the disease fighting characteristics of these plants. When plants are stressed due to irrigation problems such as drought or insect infestations, their root systems start to shut down causing further damage. Proper fertilization can enhance the ability of plants to form additional roots which grow deeper into the ground. This allows additional water and nutrients to be absorbed by the roots protecting the plants from occasional drought or insect
problems. Applying the right type of fertilizer and the proper nutrients can help our ornamental plants and lawns survive these problems. This week I am going to touch on the importance of using the proper type’s of fertilizer and when to make these applications. Let’s get started.
If you have not started your fertilizer campaign yet, you need to know you are running out of time. Because the State of
of fertilizer will begin in two weeks from the day you receive this article or June 1st.
The one commonality of all these individual restrictions is this fertilizer blackout period runs from June 1st through September 30th. During this time you will not be able to purchase or apply fertilizers to plants or lawns. There are a few exclusions to this rule such as vegetable gardens. Unfortunately, many of us gardeners call this blackout period the growing season and rightfully so. This is the time most of our plants and lawns are actively growing and require additional elements to continue thriving. As our plants break down and utilize elements in the soil to produce roots and leaves, wise gardeners replace these elements by adding additional fertilizer. Not only does this make the plant respond by growing thicker greener foliage but the plants also put down more roots. These additional roots and nutrients also help the plants natural ability to resist the infection of fungal diseases and insects.
If you have not hired a professional lawn care company to care for your ornamental
plants or lawns, then you need to fertilize your plants now. Ornamental plants and flowering landscape plants require nutrients that typical lawn fertilizers do not contain. This is the reason you will need two different types of fertilizers, one for your plants and one for your lawns. Because most of our ornamental plants produce blossoms, you need to apply a blooming or flowering type of fertilizer that contains Phosphorous. Phosphorous is represented by the middle number on a bag of fertilizer such as an 8-10-10. The main objective of
this element is to produce blooms or fruit on our plants. Because our turf grasses do not bloom or produce fruit, this element is unnecessary when fertilizing your lawn and most lawn fertilizers have a zero in the analysis numbers on the fertilizer bag such as a 16-0-10.
Ornamental fertilizers come in many different analyses. Do not let the numbers on the bags
concern you as some have higher or lower concentrations of certain elements. Also, some are granular and some are liquid. Granular fertilizers are the preferred choice as these types of fertilizers are longer lasting. Liquid fertilizers are generally quick release and must be used very frequently. Slow release granular fertilizers tend to break down slowly and feed your plants over a period of months. Some slow release fertilizers can last for up to a
year however, these types of fertilizers are very expensive and I do not recommend them for you unless you are a professional applicator. When I say slow release fertilizer, I am talking about the nitrogen content of the fertilizer or the first number you see on a bag of fertilizer. Nitrogen sources are broken down by the source of where the nitrogen is derived from.
The next time you purchase a bag of fertilizer look at the label and you will see where the nitrogen source is derived from. Nitrate Nitrogen, Urea Nitrogen, and Ammonium Nitrate are all quick release type fertilizers but most fertilizers will have some of these nitrogen sources in the bag. Some quick release sources of nitrogen are good because they will be released quickly giving your plants a quick boost of ready to use nitrogen. However, if the total nitrogen source in the bag is only from these forms of nitrogen, then this is a quick release
fertilizer and you will have the possibility of burning your plants.
The fertilizer you purchase for your plants or your lawn should have at least four units of slow release nitrogen or water insoluble nitrogen. This will be stated clearly on the bag. Look for nitrogen sources derived from Sulfur Coated Urea, Methylene Urea, Nutralene, and obuthylene Diurea. Fertilizers derived from these sources will cost more but will last much longer than your generic fertilizers and will not burn your plants. You will also be able to wait much longer
in-between applications as these products will last eight to twelve weeks or longer. When these products are applied to your plants or lawn they break down very slowly giving your plants the nutrients they need over an extended period of time. Since we can not apply additional fertilizer from June through September, these products will be able to spoon feed your plants over several months.
Most garden centers carry granular Osmacote or Dynamite fertilizers which are slow release. There are other varieties but you will need to take the time and read the label so you can make an educated choice. Apply at least four to five pounds of fertilizer for every one hundred square feet of ornamental bed space you have. I like to use a rotary hand held spreader which you can find at your local garden centers to apply my fertilizer. One hopper full equals about five pounds so all you have to do is figure out how much bed space you have. A ten
by ten area will need one hopper full. If you are fertilizing a hedge, make sure you do both sides of the hedge. Try not to direct the fertilizer over the top of the plant; rather you should fertilize under the foliage out to the drip line of the plant and beyond. Granular fertilizer placed directly over the foliage may burn the tender new growth. Liquid fertilizers and micro-element nutritional fertilizers may be applied directly over the plant at one-half strength every two to three weeks.
Turf Grass should be fertilized now and again in October with a 16-0-10 analysis. Most residential lawns will require at least fifty pounds of a slow release fertilizer. I know this seems like a lot but this is what your lawn requires if you have five thousand square feet of turf grass. When making your application, you should use a rotary type spreader and each pass you make over the lawn should be approximately three feet apart. This will give you the fifty percent overlap you need and will help prevent streaking. Make sure you square off the lawn and make straight passes to ensure proper application. Do not round off corners.
Box off corners to prevent streaking. If a tree is in the way of a pass, stop at the tree and go around it then start again on the other side of the tree in the same line you were walking.
Be sure to sweep up any spilled fertilizer off sidewalks and driveways. Fertilizer left on paved surfaces can stain and are subject to being washed away during a thunderstorm. Fertilizer misuse has been blamed for algae blooms and water quality issues if allowed to get into storm water drains which empty into the Bay or Gulf. Always wash out your spreader with water and be sure to clean your hands following application.
Selecting the right type and applying the right amount of fertilizer is very important to
the health and beauty of your plants and lawn. Use slow release forms of nitrogen fertilizers to spoon feed your plants over the summer and through the blackout period. Be diligent and use the right amount of fertilizer as your plants are constantly growing and need to be fed regularly. I hope I have given you a few recommendations that you can use to select the right type of fertilizer for your plants and lawn. Enjoy your landscape and remember, without our plants we would not be here.
What to do this week –By Mark Govan, Host “Florida Gardening”
The weather seems to be warming up a bit and most of us have been working in the garden pulling a few weeds and fertilizing our young plants. Most of my tomatoes plants have medium tomatoes growing and my squash is looking very nice. Although I could write this entire article talking about things I have already planted, I thought that this week I would spend some time talking about a couple of other plants that you could be growing in the garden. Blackberries and Raspberries could be another great addition to your garden. All of us have an area of the garden that we do not grow vegetables in and these areas go unplanted year after year. Well, this week I am going to tell you how you can turn these unproductive areas into a bonanza of fresh berries for the kitchen table.
Blackberries come in two varieties, trailing and erect. Most of the native varieties are the trailing variety and need support such as a trellis or a fence to keep the fruit off the ground. If you are going to purchase a blackberry bush I prefer the erect variety over the trailing variety, however this is just my opinion and you may like the look of the trailing varieties over the upright varieties.
Because blackberries tend to spoil quickly I prefer to pick them and eat them fresh from the garden. Even though many stores are now carrying blackberries, the shelf lives of these are limited and the cost is prohibitive. If you plan on growing a few of these in your garden you should be able to produce enough fruit for a family of four with just three or four plants. You will have to check the plants routinely to harvest the ripe fruit but that is just part of the fun of growing blackberries. May and June are typically the months when you will get most of your fruit to ripen but I have seen many plants produce for much longer periods of time.
Purchase your new plants from the local garden center in the spring. Most new blackberries have only one or two canes which have been divided from an existing patch of blackberries. These canes will normally be free of most foliage. Sometimes, you will notice small new canes beginning to develop from the base. This is usually a good sign and lets you know that the canes are healthy. Because blackberries are produced on current year’s growth, these new growths will turn into additional canes that will produce fruit, possibly this year. Plant your new canes in the spring in rich organic soil.
Areas that hold water or where water tends to sit are not good planting sites. Choose a well drained area that has good air circulation. As I mentioned above, choose an area of the garden you are not currently using for vegetables. To plant four blackberry plants you will need an area about five feet long by five feet wide. Spacing between the plants should be at least two feet apart and the rows should be two feet apart as well. Loosen the soil around each of the four planting holes and use a shovel to work in generous amounts of Black Kow or compost. Plant your new blackberries into this improved soil at the same level they were in the container you purchased. Water in well with a garden hose to remove any air pockets.
Those of you whom have spent anytime exploring country trails have probably run across wild blackberries growing along the side of the road or training over a country fence. Even though these vines were probably thorny and you were scraped by their thorny stems, you probably were able to enjoy your fill of these free natures gifts. Most native varieties grow on long trailing stems which tend to overlap each other making harvesting a thorny proposition. Although these native trailing varieties are tasty, they are comparatively small in size as compared to some of the new hybrid varieties available for the garden today.
In the past, varieties such as Oklawaha, Flordagrand, and
All three of my recommendations are erect varieties but the Arapaho and the Navaho are thornless varieties. Thornless varieties keep you from getting scraped and bruised during harvesting and help you when you have to weed the beds or prune the canes which have been harvested after the season is complete. Cut back all canes which have produced fruit this year to the ground and leave those which have not fruited until next year. Removing these canes helps fight insects and diseases which may enter the stems during the fall. Regular maintenance of your blackberries will keep them thriving for years to come.
Raspberries are not as well suited for
Each of berries listed above will be a welcome addition to any garden. Once planted, blackberries and raspberries can give you years of enjoyment as long as you care for your plants. Remember to fertilize your new plants and enjoy trying something new in the garden. As always, without our plants, we would not be here.
What to do this week –By Mark Govan, Host “Florida Gardening”
Spring is finally here and most of us are tending our new vegetable gardens and watching them grow. My Tomatoes, Lima/Pole beans, Cucumbers, and Squash are growing up quickly. For me this is an exciting time because there are so many things happening all at once. Every day I walk out into the garden to see how my plants are progressing and if you planted early enough like I did, then some of you should be seeing your plants mature with fruit already setting. This week I would like to go over some growing tips for the vegetables listed above. I will also touch on some of the more common pest and diseases problems you may be facing and what you can do to remedy these problems.
I can not think of anyone that does not grow tomatoes of one form or another. Because they are one of the most popular plants for backyard gardeners, I would like to start here. If you planted your tomatoes when I did, your plants should be looking great right now. My plants have been in the ground for about thirty days and average about two to three feet tall. Most have medium sized tomatoes on them. One thing you should be doing now is keeping your plants actively growing by adding a liquid fertilizer such as Peters or Miracle Grow mixed at half strength every two weeks. Liquid fertilizers provide a quick source of nutrients to keep your plants actively growing. All the vegetables you are growing can benefit from liquid fertilizers. Because vegetables have such a short life cycle they need these boosts of nutrition regularly to help keep your plants healthy and give you bigger and tastier fruit.
Be sure to monitor your tomato plants for diseases such as Early or Late Blight. Early or Late Blight of tomatoes is a devastating disease that can cause your plants to wither and die if not controlled early. Look for wilting leaves on the upper or lower branches followed by death of the branch. As soon as you notice this happening to your plants, you will need to apply a fungicide. I like to use Daconil, Dithane M-45, or Green Cure fungicides. Spray both the top and bottom of the leaves and make sure you follow the mixing instructions on the label. Re-apply every seven to ten days using freshly mixed product. If you have a severe problem, you may need to pull out the infested plant so you do not infect your other plants in the same area.
I know some of you have also been planting some of the cherry or grape varieties of tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes do much better in the summer months so do not be alarmed if your plants are not producing well for you. If you have already started some of the cherry tomatoes don’t worry, your plants will still produce but may take a little longer to get going. I prefer to plant cherry or grape tomatoes around May or June as they take the summer heat much better than the bush tomatoes do.
Please note that because most cherry tomatoes are “indeterminate” plants, meaning that their growth height has not been predetermined, they can grow very tall and many will require staking or trellising. Indeterminate tomatoes can grow as high as eight to ten feet when supported on an arbor or trellis. Most bush tomatoes or “determinate” tomatoes are those varieties in which the growth height is determined and they will only grow to a height of three to five feet.
Lima Beans are another favorite of mine and the “pole” varieties can grow over an eight foot trellis. If you purchased your plants from the garden center, plant them the same way as the pole beans. If you are starting your plants from seed be sure to maintain constant even moisture as lima beans will not set properly if over watered also do not soak them first as this will crack the seed and possibly ruin your crop. I like the Jackson Wonder or Dixie Butterpea varieties. As the plants grow you may want to use some mulch over the soil to conserve water. When you do water, make sure you water plants at the base of the plant versus overhead watering. Overhead watering during the flowering period can make the flowers fall off and limit your production. Lima Beans are ready to pick when the pods are plump and firm. Check your plants every few days and pick pods when they look ready.
Beans are subject to pests like aphids and diseases like leaf spotting. Use Sevin Dust, Liquid Sevin, or Neem oil for pest problems. If you find any spotted leaves or leaves that look like they may have a powdery appearance, then you will need to apply a fungicide. Use all insecticides and fungicides sparingly and wait several days after use before picking the beans. Be sure to wash the fruit before eating.
Cucumbers and Cantaloupes are a few other great plants for home gardens but they require room as they tend to run along the ground. I like to grow mine on a support structure such as a trellis or fence to keep them off the ground and limit spoilage. Look for varieties such as Burpless cucumbers or for Cantaloupes, I like the variety Athena which is a hybrid that does well in
Beetles and worms can be problems on both cucumbers and cantaloupe but if you set up a routine preventative spraying schedule you should be able to control these pests. Beetles and caterpillars both chew on the edges of the leaves while others pest may chew holes in the leaves and reduce the amount of nutrients available to the plant. Spray the plants every 10 days with the insecticides I listed above.
Occasionally I have emails asking me if you can apply both insecticides and fungicides at the same time. The simple answer is yes you can but with the following limitations. First of all be sure the two products are computable. Read the labeled directions of both products and if you find no mention of compatibility problems, mix each product accordingly. Most products homeowners purchase are compatible but to be sure read the label. Again, I like to spray my plants early in the morning after a thorough watering the night before. With a little patience and care you will be eating fresh cucumbers and cantaloupes from your garden in no time.
Squash and Zucchini are another great addition to any garden. Both of these plants love compost so add a generous helping to the soil along with Peat and Perlite for drainage. Try not to compact the soil too much when planting because loose soils allow their roots to grow and spread easily. My plants are already producing three inch fruits so harvest time will not be long now. Just like the cucumbers and cantaloupes, squash and zucchini both get powdery mildew on the leaves so if you see this fungus spray the same as I mentioned above every seven to ten days.
Squash tend to have problems setting fruit. After the plants start to flower, I receive many calls from people that state after the fruit start to develop and get about 2-3 inches long then the fruit withers and falls off. This is due to improper bee pollination. If this happens to you, get a camels hair brush and do what the bees do. Stick the brush into the flowers and gently swirl the brush around. Repeat this often on all the open flowers. I have had good success in setting fruit using this technique. Remember; that the first few flowers are male flowers and tend to fall off so do not let this distract you. More flowers will follow.
Zucchini like to be fertilized regularly to produce a lot of fruit. I mix fertilizer into the soil before I plant and once the plants are about six inches tall I apply liquid fertilizers every two weeks at one half strength to keep the plants growing. Harvest your Zucchini and Squash when the fruits are six to eight inches long. The more fruit you harvest, the more the plant will develop additional fruit so check your plants regularly.
Your garden should have at least a few of each of the plants I have listed here and many more varieties I have not mentioned. If you are like me, you should monitor your plants regularly and watch for pests and diseases. Treat your plants as needed and enjoy this wonderful time of year. Remember, without our plants, we would not be here.