Growing Season – Gardening FAQ

Growing Season – Gardening FAQ


welcome to FAQ for gardeners today we
are going to discuss the answers to some of your most frequently asked questions
my name is Aaron Steil and apart from being the assistant director at Reiman
Gardens I have the great fortune of being on the radio every week answering
gardening questions on a gardening advice radio show and while I often get
questions from lots of people in many different topic areas there are a few
questions I answer often but I often don’t have the opportunity to answer
them as I depth as I would like so presented here are some more in-depth
answers to some of the most common questions that I hear each week from
gardeners just like yourself across Iowa and hopefully it gives you a bit more
background behind why we give the advice that we give also it allows me to
provide a little bit of visual which I don’t get to do very often on the radio
so without further ado let’s start answering some of those very frequently
asked questions first one is how do I turn my hydrangeas blue and to start
with this not all hydrangeas have blue flowers in fact only one species in
particular does this phenomenon apply to so we have to to answer this question
well first determine which hydrangea you actually have now throughout this
presentation I have a handful of quote-unquote quiz questions to help
maybe be a bit more engaging and help think a little bit more about the topic
as we discuss this please take a minute or so and consider this question and if
you like you can pause this recording and take some time to write down or talk
to those that are around you if you have other folks in the room with you
so which hydrangeas are typically grown in Iowa take a moment if you need to
pause the recording you’re welcome to do that which hydrangeas do you typically
see in gardens in Iowa in Iowa there are four primary species
of hydrangea now these of course are not the only hydrangeas that can be grown in
the state but these are by far the most common ones starting with a smooth
hydrangea sometimes called the Annabelle hydrangea this is a large green that
turns to a kind of a creamy white eventually fades to a brown ball shaped
flower they’re native to eastern North America and they bloom on current year’s
growth which is an important factor in our discussion in the little bit these
plants do die to the ground most years and grow up from their roots each spring
and blooming another very common hydrangea is the panicle hydrangea this
has a more elongated or cone-shaped flower it has much like the Annabelle
hydrangea it has kind of creamy white flowers but many varieties have a very
nice pink color as well these are more woody plants they tend to be much larger
they do not die to the ground each year they’re native to Japan and China and
just like the smooth hydrangea they bloom on current year’s growth the oak
leaf hydrangea is probably the least common of the four presented here large
coarse oak leaf shaped leaves grace this North American native it has a wonderful
red fall color and just like the panicle hydrangea the flowers are more elongated
and cone-shaped and often have a nice amount of pink in them finally the big
leaf hydrangea is sometimes grown in Iowa this Asian native native to Japan
does change color based on the pH of the soil and that is the hydrangea that you
can potentially turn blue this one much like the oak leaf hydrangea blooms on
last year’s growth and that will be important to think about as we as we get
further in to this discussion so if you don’t have a big leaf hydrangea
you cannot turn it blue and that’s where this question ends but if you do have a
big leaf hydrangea then the color depends on the amount of aluminum ions
in the soil which is very much influenced by the soil pH now changing
soil pH is difficult and for these flowers to have a really good blue color
we need a pH of 6 or below now most soils in Iowa and actually much of the
oven Upper Midwest tend to be more alkaline they tend to have a higher pH
so blue is really rare instead we tend to get a more pinkish color in these
plants now changing soil pH is a challenging venture because soil is very
buffered and is very hard to alter in this way and anything that you do do to
change the pH of the soil those effects will be reversed as soon as you stop
doing it but if you want to try to go down this this road there are a few ways
that you can do it one is to adds peat moss to the soil sphagnum peat moss is
incredibly acidic incorporating it into the soil when you plant these in your
garden and continuing to incorporate top dress with peat moss throughout
the years can help lower the pH in the immediate area of the root zone for
these plants hopefully lowering the pH in that area making those aluminum ions
more available and changing that color from pink to blue another thing you can
do is fertilize with an acidic fertilizer so these fertilizers are
usually made up of ammonium sulfate or salt recorded urea and not only do they
feed the plant quote-unquote feed the plant provide nutrition for the plant
but they can also change the pH needle now they’re not gonna bring the pH down
in as big of a way as maybe some of the other options presented here but with
consistent and frequent fertilizer applications utilizing these soil
acidifying fertilizers we can see the pH go down a little bit as soon as you stop
using them that pH will likely change back to what
it was to begin with and many of these products any well-stocked garden center
will have these products and they’re usually named after things like
hydrangeas Hollies and rhododendrons all which are plants that really appreciate
more acidic soils finally you can add elemental sulfur aluminum sulfate to the
soil this doesn’t have nutritional value for
the plant in it but it can change the pH of the soil and allow those flowers to
be more blue in color with that said is this is something that you have to do on
a regular basis and you have to add it to the soil
typically seasonally and as soon as you stop doing it you will likely see the pH
migrate back up to where it was before you started an additional note about big
leaf hydrangea this is a challenging hydrangea to grow in Iowa it is not
winter hardy above ground only the roots are winter hardy and if you remember we
talked about certain hydrangea is blooming on last year’s growth or
previous year’s growth and this is one of them so if the plant dies to the
ground every winter there is never last year’s growth for it to bloom on now
there are some wonderful cultivars of this plant that bloom on current year’s
growth the most notable being one called endless summer but even these cultivars
tend to peter out over time and less and less reliably bloom over time so knowing
that going into this keep in mind that this type of hydrangea of the big leaf
hydrangea is not likely a long-term successful plant in your garden but more
of a short-term short-lived plant for you and going into it with that attitude
sometimes can help a lot in your expectations for this plant this may be
the most common weed question I get how do I kill creeping Charlie this is a
very aggressive weed that can be difficult to control this plant spreads
through runners and seed it does have pretty blue to purplish
flowers in spring and a very strong mint like odor it’s in the same family as
mint but sometimes referred to as ground ivy and it can be a very difficult weed
to control especially in turf situations the plant is really well-suited for
shady and tough situations and so when grass gets thin this very easily comes
in and takes over and before we even talked about how do I kill this weed I
do want you to consider first do you have to this plant is well adapted to
certain situations and while it’s not something that all of us want to see it
is not an unattractive plant and remember a weed is simply a plant that’s
unwanted so if it’s not a big deal it can be wanted now with that said not all
of us do want this weed so how do you get rid of it there are lots of kind of
homespun methods that I have heard to control the spread of this very common
weed take a moment now and consider and talk to those around you what methods
you have heard to kill creeping Charlie if you need to you can pause this recording and
then come back in the lawn situation one of the big things to do is to try to
improve conditions keeping grass long making sure it gets plenty of Sun making
sure that grass is healthy and strong it can compete better with creeping Charlie
if you do have it one of the only organic controls that you can use is
hand pulling but hand pulling is difficult you have to be persistent and
consistent in how often you do it and any piece left behind of this little
weed will easily continue to root and grow so hand pulling persistently can
sometimes control small areas of infestation of this weed but large areas
may be more difficult and require something a bit more
invasive like a herbicide make sure that if you do use a herbicide that
you apply that herbicide in the fall and it will take to applications usually the
best timing is one in late September maybe early October and then a second
one one month later and the herbicide that
you use on your lawn should be one of these broadleaf herbicides or a mixture
of them the mixture of two four d and trichlopyr that you sometimes see
in certain weed control products is particularly effective against creeping
Charlie but any of these can be helpful and it is beneficial to mix and match
these between your applications so one application may be one or two of the
active ingredients and another one may be a different one you usually get
better control when you do that there there is a strong urge to apply
herbicides in the spring for these plants because that’s when they’re often
really showy and when we first notice them but spraying herbicides are very
ineffective and in fact in many cases you’re probably wasting more money than
you are killing plants with this herbicide application in the spring so
do some hand pulling try to keep it under control promote a healthy lawn and
then the fall address it with herbicides there is also a lot of information out
on the web about more quote/unquote organic approaches to creeping Charlie
using things like borax or vinegar and while these things may make a dent in
the control of this weed they are typically not nearly as effective as
some of the other control methods we talked about
once you have creeping Charlie under control make sure your mowing at an
appropriate height and keeping lawns healthy to prevent re-infestation and
when you do see it take care of it right away if you have this plant in a garden
bed it can be a bit more difficult because broadleaf herbicides can injure
the plants that are in the garden bed as well you’ll have to rely on hand pulling
and the careful application of either a broadleaf herbicide or a non-selective
herbicide like glyphosate again in the fall a lot
of people really want a silver bullet for the control of this really pesky
weed but there really is no silver bullet the secret to the control is to
be persistent and consistent doing it often and doing it at the appropriate
time and doing it well this may be the most common question I receive on a
regular basis there are several reasons for that this is a very popular
vegetable tomato plants are by far the most common planted vegetable and even
if you don’t have a full fledged vegetable garden there is a big chance
that you might have one or two tomato plants and for good reason a homegrown
tomato is delicious so how do you control the spots that almost always
invariably show up on tomato plants now there are several different diseases
that can impact Tomatoes but these spots that show up on the plants early to mid
summer and then infect the plant throughout the season usually growing in
size and causing the leaves to drop is called either early blight or septoria
blight and they’re both caused by two different fungus Alternaria and septoria
and the control of both of these is very similar so how do you control this common
disease well to start use healthy plants make sure that the plants you’re buying
don’t already have this disease and because it’s so pervasive this can
happen occasionally and there are known resistant cultivars
out there so you do have to just use other methods cultural maybe some
fungicides which we’ll talk about in a little bit to get this under control
another thing to consider is good crop rotation keeping tomatoes and its
relatives potatoes peppers and eggplant out of the same area for at least three
to four years is ideal now rotating in this way can be really difficult for the
typical home gardener most of us just don’t have the space to avoid a whole
section of your vegetable garden with all of those plants tomatoes potatoes
peppers eggplant for four years but even if you can do it in a small way it can
help prevent this soil borne pathogen from building up in the soil it’s good
to have proper plant spacing Tomatoes should be about three feet apart for
good air circulation this helps keep foliage dry which allows once helps
prevent the funds fungus from spreading and in relation to that it’s also good
to get them up off the ground using tomato cages or other structures to get
the foliage away from the soil this starts in the soil when it splashes up
on the leaves and then spreads from the bottom up on the plant and so anything
you can do to keep the plant as far away from the soil and keep soil from
splashing is going to be beneficial mulch is another way to do that putting
down two to three inches of something like grass clippings straw cocoa
hulls shredded leaves those are all great options in the vegetable garden
but of course things like wood mulch can be used too it’s just in that in that
setting we don’t typically like to use a more permanent
like that keeps the water from splashing on the leaves splashing soil on the
leaves and helps hopefully slow the infestation of this fungal disease along
with that avoid wetting the foliage whenever possible do not use overhead
watering do not work in the plants when they are wet use soaker hoses or drip
irrigation or just directly water at ground level to keep the
leaves dry and if you do end up overhead watering do so in the morning so that
there’s more time for those leaves to dry off and and hopefully not promote
the spread of this disease as you notice it appear it’s usually about mid-june
when you start to see it on the plants remove those lower leaves that have been
affected it can hopefully reduce the amount of spread or at least slowed it
if you can keep this disease from impacting your plants in a big way until
much later in the season you can still get a decent crop out of out of your
plant and the control of it won’t be so important now if you have you’ve
tried all of these cultural things and you’re still getting this disease in a
big way then using fungicides may be an option
make sure those fungicides include some of the active ingredients listed here and
you’ll want to apply it every 7 to 14 days beginning about three or four weeks
after transplanting and it will happen throughout the growing season fungicides
are much more effective as a preventative measure in many cases and
this is very true for this disease once it’s there you can’t fix it but you can
prevent it and starting with fungicides and utilizing them through the season
stopping later in the season because once the tomato starts setting fruit
usually you can still get a decent crop even if there is a little bit foliar
damage good fall cleanup is another important
thing the the fungal spores overwinter in the soil and in the plant debris so
doing a good job removing that foliage in the fall is going to be
important to be sure that we reduce the amount of fungal pathogen in the soil
and hopefully reduce the likelihood of being infected in a big way and finally
if you do have a lot of issues with this you can always try a container now this
has some drawbacks but one of the great benefits is you can use potting soil
which is sterile and won’t have this pathogen in it now over time even even
the public of the large container can build up with this pathogen and not all
tomatoes do great in a container some of them just get really large keeping in
container water especially late in the season can be a little bit difficult but
if you’re having big issues with this plant and you can’t do good crop
rotation then using a container might be an option for you if tomato blight on
tomatoes is the most common question this is probably the most common lawn
related question we hear how do you grow grass in the shade and the short of this
answer is you don’t turf just does not do well in the shade
and the thin grass invites weeds that can tolerate more shade like creeping
Charlie and violets so there are a couple of options if you have a lot of
shade in your yard the first is you can create more Sun limbing up trees removing
fences or buildings that are causing this issue will create more Sun which
the turf prefers and will grow better in now this is not typically a desirable
option so your other option is to continue to be frustrated and try
to grow grass this is an area even the more shade tolerant grasses like
creeping red fescue chewings fescue or hard fescue want more Sun and typical
shade plant so when you have less than four hours of direct sunlight you’re
going to have difficulty growing turf even the quote unquote more shade
tolerant turf species but this is a good place to start if you require grass in
an area that has a lot of shade finally you can establish something
other than turf and while this may seem like a lot of work at first it’s
certainly a lot less work in the long haul if you have an appropriate plant
for a shady location rather than turf now what options do you think exists to
plant in shady situations that are not turf take a minute pause ask those
around you and list a few options for plants or other things that might work
well other than turf now you can just mulch these areas and sometimes the
mulch looks better than thin and really sad looking turf and it can still be
used when you mulch these areas it can still be used in much the same way that
you would use the turf area in terms of being able to walk on it and do
activities on it many times the trees would love to not be competing with the
root systems of the grass for water and nutrients and so the trees would benefit
from this too but if you want to have plants there are a lot of really
wonderful spreading plants for shade and these are just a few of them you can see
the list here of particular note I want to bring up sedges there are literally
hundreds of different kinds of sedges and the Pennsylvania sedge is one of the
best shade long alternatives it does many of the sedges are more
forming so you do have to kind of plant them and they create little mounds that
eventually grow together but Pennsylvania sedge grows a little bit
more like turf and all of the sedges are very grass like but they tolerate much
more shade than grasses do and so these can be really nice options if you’re
wanting that that turf look but have a very shady situation bugle weed, wild
ginger, geraniums, hostas, pachysandra, foam flower these are all potential options
that do and tolerate shade much better than turf does there’s a couple on this
list that I want to bring particular attention to numbers 11 and 12
gout weed and lily of the valley are both very aggressive spreaders that do
well in the shade but sometimes can do a little too well so use these plants with
caution and make sure that you have natural barriers to prevent rampant
spread of these two ground covers in particular sometimes vinca falls into
this group too as can adjuga when it’s really happy but these others in
particular pachysandra the wild ginger geranium for a little bit more Sun all
of these are really wonderful possibilities for shady situations over
turf this critter might be one of the most frustrating animals related to
gardening and deer damage can be extensive deer do really well in urban
and especially suburban environments and they feed on an incredibly large range
of plants now they do have some favorites things like hosta arborvitae
yew apples roses burning bush clematis red bud rhododendrons and Norway maples
are frequently browsed and many of those plants are popular garden plants and so
we often see the damage that results from them being in your garden and
effective management of deer usually takes multiple approaches and so we’ll
talk about some of those approaches and in many cases mixing and matching these
to create a situation that will leave your deer alone leave your garden alone
will be most effective now everybody out there has heard lots
of different methods for controlling deer what methods have you heard of or
tried in your own garden take a moment pause if you need to talk to those
around you write down a couple of things so how do you keep deer away well one
option is to plant more deer resistant plants if you have a lot of deer
pressure hosta is probably not a good plant for you arborvitaes is probably not
a great hedge option for you because they are favorites they are like that
pizza and chicken nuggets for deer so instead what plants are out there that
are a bit more like the I don’t know Brussels sprouts
for a deer where maybe they might browse on it but they’re usually not preferred
typically plants that have thorns a strong fragrance or stiffly hairy leaves
are less likely to be browsed and there are many lists out there all you have to
do is google it to find a quote-unquote deer resistant plants and almost
everybody will run into somebody who has said all but I’ve seen them eat mine and
while this may be true planting more deer resistant plants is going to reduce
the amount of damage that you see some of these include things like Barbary
red osier dogwood forsythia honey locust beauty bush many of the spruces in
particular Norway spruce white spruce and Colorado spruce many of the pines
particularly Mugo Austrian and Scotch pine although they do know are known to
browse relatively common on eastern white pine
and lilac is typically avoided as well so those are plants that you can look at
if you have a lot of deer pressure you can also use repellents and repellents
are really about temporary relief they have to be reapplied often they quickly
wear out or wash away and it’s really important that if you do use repellents
that you mix up what you use and so that the deer don’t get used to certain
scents or tastes because once they do then it’s no longer effective you can
really break repellents into two major groups there’s the contact or the taste
repellents and there’s the area or smelly repellents and with the contact
repellents that you taste them they don’t taste good and they’ll leave the
plant alone when you apply these you should focus on the new growth because
that’s most likely to be eaten and you can see here in this picture that is
what deer browsing looks like they rip and tear plants unlike rabbits which
make a clean cut with their teeth and so if you see damage like this it’s usually
because of deer if the plant is small you can apply these taste or contact
repellents to the entire plant but you can’t really use these kinds of
repellents on food crops because of course you need to eat them as well and
things like hot sauce and Byram are two examples of taste repellents now area
repellents or smell repellents can be more cost effective than the contact
ones because you can apply them just on the perimeter of your garden and it
repels deer based solely on their smell and there are lots and lots of options
when it comes to area repellents things that are made from rotten eggs or
predator urine like coyote urine blood meal mothballs human hair bar soap all
of these are examples of things that folks may try and use to be smelly to
deer and repel them away from your garden again these tend to be temporary
relief and overtime can very quickly get used to
them scare devices can also be used
they are also only useful for a few weeks but one of the things you can try
to do with scare devices is break their patterns deer are very habitual and once
they have their routes and their paths they use them often so if you can do
something to change that you can hopefully get a little relief in your
garden from their browsing these scare devices include things like exploders
that make loud noises at regular intervals but keep in mind that they
will get used to that interval and know that it’s not dangerous dogs can be
great deer control but deer very quickly understand what limits the dogs have in
terms of where they can go if they’re on a tie out or have a fence deer will
learn very quickly how far they can go and browse just beyond that you can also
fire guns or fire off fireworks if you do decide to use scare devices they
need to be moved around a lot because as I mentioned they can get really used to
the intervals or the boundaries the most effective way to keep deer away are
fences but they tend to be the most expensive option so if you try out all
these other things and are frustrated building a barrier is likely your best
option there are two types there’s the passive fence which is essentially a
tall fence it needs to be at least eight foot tall needs to go all the way to the
ground typically a woven wire like hog panel
can work really well and the way that that that fencing is sold
you can usually buy a 12-foot stake put a four feet in the ground and then
attach to hog panel fencing panels on top of each other to create the barrier
you can also use active forms this would be like electric fences but electric
fences you have to train deer to know to avoid them so they have to be baited in
some way so that they touch them get shocked and go away usually a little bit
of foil with peanut butter is the best way to do this
and overtime deer can learn that they can just jump over these fences so they
may not work as well as a tall fence a passive fence but they are usually a lot
less cheaper there are a lot less expensive and of course you can also
just protect individual plants using tubes posts or cylinders of wire fence
but the plants are small make sure you put a cover over the top of those
cylinders they can’t reach down inside so to prevent the the browsing that may
occur and the other thing that deer occasionally do in the fall is utilize
small trees to rub the velvet off of their antlers and three posts positioned
about 18 inches apart can prevent them from using a brand new plant a newly
planted tree for this the damage that that does is pretty extensive and can
happen really quickly so prevent protecting those young plants from deer
rubbing is very beneficial this question is kind of add a little bit more general but it’s something I hear often people ask me and it’s essentially it starts
off with what should i spray to get rid of fill-in-the-blank an insect a disease
a weed whatever it may be what can I spray to get rid of it this seems to be
the go-to question because many gardeners think there is a very quick
and simple answer and in reality spraying should be the last option that you use
because there’s a lot of other things that can be done that are much less
negatively impactful on the environment and your garden and yourself than
spraying so gardening just isn’t this cut and dry and actually I’m kind of
thankful it isn’t how boring the gardening be if it were this cut and dry
an integrated approach is much more effective and sustainable
and that integrated approach is referred to as integrated pest management or IPM
take a moment now remind yourself or ask those around you
what is IPM integrated pest management or IPM is a great thing and it really
assumes that there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to dealing
with any particular problem and that’s what this question seems – seems to kind
of infer or assume instead IPM requires you to think about your garden more
holistically remember it is an ecosystem and every action has a ripple effect the
wrong action may do a little bit of good like kill a pest insect but cause a lot
of bad as well so maybe also kill all of the good insects and other pollinators
in your garden but the right more integrated action will not only promote
good things in your garden but discourage the bad things so this is why
taking this IPM approach to problems rather than just taking a step back or
rather than just asking what can I spray to get rid of this is a much bigger
approach and this is hard for me to talk about on the radio I don’t often have a
lot of time to discuss this and so what can I spray is actually probably the
last thing on the list to take an integrative approach you want to start
with first accurately identifying the issue you can’t do any appropriate
corrective measures unless you know accurately what you’re dealing with and
to do this you often want to inspect for insects and disease and other issues
early and deal with them sooner rather than later so a frequent scouting I
often use the time that I take watering for example to scout for issues or to
look for issues that may be going on in my garden in hopes of catching them
early the next thing to consider is do I actually need to do anything what is
what I am seeing right now going to turn is very likely
to turn into something bigger or is this pretty much what it is and the damage is
actually when you really think about it not that big of a deal remember
most of us aren’t growing stuff to show at the State Fair
a few spots or holes and the leaves are not a big deal and we may not need to do
anything especially if we’re fairly confident that it’s not going to turn
into something bigger the next thing to consider is how can I
prevent these issues so making sure that the right plant is in the right place is
one of the best ways to prevent issues plants that are under stress because
they’re in the wrong environmental conditions are more likely to have pests
and disease issues so getting them in the right place doing crop rotation all
of those things can help is there a resistant cultivar I can buy you know I
often run into folks who have crab apples that lose leaves by midsummer
because of some really impactful fungal diseases but there are varieties of
crabapple out there that are less susceptible to those diseases and more
likely to have foliage late into the season because of this so plant those
plants instead be sure that what you do by not only is resistant to a common
disease but also itself is is healthy and clean and maybe it makes sense to
remove any pieces that you see so if there’s just one branch that has a lot
of aphids on it or a lot of scale on it then just prune that branch out make
sure that you’re spacing plants appropriately to get good air
circulation and staking and caging those plants to keep them up off the ground
again to get good air circulation anything that is close to the ground or
close together is more likely to have disease issues and remove hiding place
for pests as well if you’re having a lot of issues with rabbits in your
garden then the wood pile right next to the garden may be part of the issue and
moving that pile so the rabbits don’t have a place to hide could could help
with that next you will want to consider and alter
cultural practices things like making sure you water in the morning instead of
the evening if you have a lot of disease issues so that things have all day to
dry out instead of sitting wet all night watering at the base or using drip
irrigation systems I’m not over fertilizing over fertilized plants grow
more quickly but they often have weak growth that’s more susceptible to pests
and disease and using mulch if you’re not using mulch already using mulch can
make plants healthier and happier which are more resistant to problems and can
help the spread of problems case in point
our tomato blight issues now if you’ve done a lot of those practices and you’re
still seeing the issues the next step might be to use some sort of
mechanical control for insects and other pests maybe netting screenings fencers
or row covers can exclude those problem pests and this isn’t always an
option so for example with squash there are lots of different bugs that a row
cover could help exclude but they would also exclude the pollinator
and pollinators are required to get good fruit set on things like squash so it’s
not that wouldn’t be a great option for squash but for other plants it could be
the perfect option you have birds that are on constantly picking all the fruit
off of your cherry tree putting a net over it can help prevent them from doing
that you can also use sticky cards while sticky cards are great for tracking and
seeing problems and hopefully identifying them before they become huge
issues they’re not great control measures pheromone traps fall into this
category as well and sometimes they can feel really satisfying because when the
stations are bad you can catch a lot of things this way but especially for
insects these are really more monitor devices than anything else you can also
just handpick or prune off problem things
if you notice just one section of the plant has the issue removing that as
quickly as possible to prevent it from spreading to other areas maybe all
that’s needed to keep that problem low enough that it doesn’t impact yield or
cause negative impacts on how it appears things like a forceful spray of water to
remove aphids for example of this as well you can also use biological control
introducing natural pest predators can be a great way so things like buying and
releasing lady beetles lace wings or praying mantids in your garden to
increase the amount of natural predators that can hopefully feed and destroy some
of those pests insects that you might have or providing a habitat that
promotes more of those natural predators to be in the area so having good plant
diversity so that you can increase the number of good insects that are in the
area it could be as simple as providing a place for a bird to perch so that they
can get in there and get those problem insects or having a red-tailed hawk
have a great place to sit so they can take care of your little bunny problem
IPM doesn’t mean you don’t use pesticides you’ll just notice it’s the
last thing on the list so rather one of the things that’s really important to
consider about this question what should i spray there’s actually six at least
six questions to ask before you get to that one if you work through all of
those things and they still are not adequately controlling the problem that
you’re having your garden then pesticides may be an option
some kind of insecticide fungicide or herbicide to control those insects
disease or weed pressures can work but use them as a last resort always use as
the label directs and work hard to avoid off target spraying so spraying when
pollinators aren’t active so that the insecticide you’re putting down doesn’t
impact them negatively but hopefully still impacts
the pest negatively and I always work to try to do an organic option first if an
insecticidal soap will work for the problem that I have I will start with
that over something that’s maybe a bit more a bit stronger the last question I
want to talk to you about is one that I love talking about and love
answering and this is something that’s on a lot of people’s minds right now how
can I attract more pollinators to my garden insects of all time, all kinds can
be beneficial pollinators in the garden and by and large most of the insects
that live in our garden have no negative and in many cases many positive impacts
on our plants so promoting them can be really beneficial common pollinators can
include things like butterflies some moth species all sorts of different bees
from bumblebees honeybees and other solitary species that are native to the
state but other things like hover flies and flower beetles are also good
potential pollinators so if we want to invite all of these critters to our
garden what are some things we can do in our garden to promote them take a moment
pause if you need to discuss with those around you
some of the things that we can do to create a garden that is friendly for
pollinators step one is full Sun the insects and nearly all of the plants
that they utilize grow in full Sun and many of these insects want to be in more
sunlight so finding a good location that has full Sun is going to be the first
step to establishing a good pollinator friendly garden you also want to have
food sources pollen and nectar sources for these and these typically come from
the plants that you select now the plants that are Iowa native are going to
be better alternatives but they don’t all have to be native plants to attract
pollinators when you do put these in your garden
plant them in groups not rows they’re easier for those insects to
utilize and try to offer a wide variety of flower shapes and colors to attract
the most diverse number of pollinators try to plant so that there’s always
something in bloom from spring to fall throughout the season and some some
plants that might you might consider include things like clover goldenrod
cone flower all of which are native zinnia and salvia are great options too
although they aren’t native they still promote and feed pollinators linden
trees button bush shrubs wild rose & elderberry are also nice native woody
plants that can promote and provide food sources for different pollinators host
plants are another important consideration especially when it comes
to butterflies remember that for nearly all these insects the adult phase that
you’re seeing especially with butterflies is just one part of their
life cycle and most butterflies in particular need an alternate plant for
their caterpillars and these host plants provide the food that those larval us
that that larval stage needs and for most butterflies in particular there’s a
very specific species that’s required and so if there are certain butterflies
species or other insects that you’re looking to promote take a peek in Google
what they require for their host plants so for example the regal fritillary is
a wonderful native butterfly that needs violets as a host plant so if that is
something you’re trying to encourage in your garden make sure that you have
violets in your garden a water source is important but this isn’t necessarily a
birdbath or a pond although those could work it’s really just moisture that
they’re looking for and it could be as simple as having places in your garden
where water can puddle and allow these insects to take advantage of it could be
a pond a stream birdbath with rocks in it so that they have some place to land
and utilize that space because all of these insects
butterflies in particular are not going to be able to use the open water they’re going
to be using the edges that’s why something like a container of wet sand
can sometimes work really well if you do have still water features in your
pollinator garden you’ll want to change it change the water in them and at least
every 2 to 3 days to prevent mosquito breeding rocks are also important they
are warm and this is a great place for them to warm their bodies so that they
can fly around and do their thing sometimes the path is a perfect place
for this you just have to watch where you step shelter is also really
important this can be as simple as trees and shrubs
remember pollinator gardens aren’t just flowers from annuals and perennials but
the flowers from trees and shrubs and the protection those trees and shrubs
provide is really beneficial make sure you consider fences you could be rock
piles twig piles even just some leaf litter are all potential shelters you
can also introduce things like bee houses especially for the solitary bees
which can be beneficial and in this picture you see a
butterfly house and while those are cute they really don’t house butterflies so
if you want to introduce these in your garden you are more than welcome to use
them as decorative objects but no they are not actually a home for butterflies
in fact they’re probably more likely to be a home for wasps or bees and of
course protecting these insects and pollinators from pesticides is really
important limiting the pesticide use that you use in the garden and nearby
will go a long way because remember these are insects too in many cases and
pesticides don’t know which insects are good and bad so when you apply them they
impact both good and bad so reducing the amount that you use utilizing them
responsibly when you do use them is going to be really important and finally
if you want to call all pollinators to your garden you’re gonna have to maybe
be a little less tidy than you’re used to and for
some gardeners this might be the hardest part about being mindful of pollinators
an untidy garden is really what most of these pollinator insects want to see
things a little on the wild side so to do this we would not clean up in the
fall there’s a lot of insects that benefit and overwinter in those in that
kind of untidy space so you’ll want to be sure that you leave that work for the
spring and it’s okay to leave a few weed species in the garden for example things
like milkweed nettle and violets are all important host plants for a lot of
different native Iowa butterflies and removing all of those weeds does not
promote them in your garden so maybe maybe you don’t let it go rampant but
leaving a few of those things for those insects is going to be one of the best
ways to get more pollinators in your garden those were just a couple of the
very common questions of course you probably have questions of your own and
if you don’t have an expert sitting right next to you to answer those
questions 24/7 there are resources out there to help you if you have more
questions one of my favorite places to start is horticultural and home pest
news offered by Iowa State University Extension horticulture they have a great
searchable database of questions and I encourage you to bookmark this page and
use it as often as you want to answer some of your questions what’s wonderful
is that the information presented on this site is specific to Iowa and works
well for all of us in this great state of course you can contact a Master
Gardener the mission of the master gardeners as most of you are well aware
is to provide current and research-based information and education on gardening
to the citizens and their community and as you learn more information sharing
that with other and being a resource as a Master
Gardener is really beneficial and going to your local Extension Office is of
course the best way to get connected with all of these experienced and
trained gardeners you can also call the Hort line or email the hotline with your
very specific questions and the number and email there is on the screen it’s
also easily found on the horticultural and home pest news website and
finally if you have something that just seems to perplex you and your Master
Gardener friends submitting a sample to the plant and insect diagnostic clinic
is an option now if you may apply depending on how you’re submitting that
sample but you can get very specific answers to your questions utilizing this
wonderful service from Iowa State University Extension so that’s always a
consideration as well now I can’t come in here as assistant director of Reiman
gardens and not very briefly mentioned this wonderful garden in Ames opened in
1995 it’s 17 acres were open year-round seven days a week in fact there’s only
three days of the year were closed it’s Thanksgiving Day Christmas Day and New
Year’s Day we have wonderful collections of a wide variety of plants but we also
specialize in of course butterflies roses and native prairie plants one of
the things that we do each year that really creates some very creative spaces
in the garden are theme years we pick a theme and the
garden and all the educational programming that we do revolves around
that theme and it allows us to do all of those things that you see there on the
screen as a staff and we come up with some really wonderful programs displays
and ideas to show to the public each year because of those themes some places
you’ll see when you visit Reiman Gardens include our butterfly flight house the
butterfly wing which is shaped like a butterfly there are at least 800
butterflies of 50 different species flying around in that wonderful flight
house year round we also have a great conservatory that changes in a big way
features holiday displays orchids spring bulbs and
fall plants depending on the season that you visit we have wonderful rose gardens
that include a world-renowned collection of Buck roses these are roses that were
developed by dr. buck at Iowa State University that are naturally more
disease resistant and winter hardy than your typical hybrid tea or floribunda
rose, we have a wonderful herb garden we also have what we call our Campanile
garden which features many annual displays from tulips in the spring to
very colorful annuals in the summer and fall Lake Helen features lots of great
water plants the Town & Country garden is a great place to get ideas for your
own home garden and the children’s garden is a great spot to interact with
the garden with any kids or grandkids that might be with you I hope you get a
chance at some point to come and visit us in Ames
we’re located just south of Jack trice Stadium on the edge of Iowa State
University’s campus

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