Budget-minded tips for biennials
by Ronella Stagner, Gardening Columnist
Aug 26, 2009 | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A call came today from a reader of the Harrodsburg area who was asking about starting Hollyhocks from seeds of the parent plant. Seems that it’s hard for her to get them started and they seem to be like weeds to others. This call brings up the subject that I have touched on before but will again. The biennials, such as Foxglove and Hollyhocks, can be started from seed now. It’s not advisable to set out any of the young seedlings in another place now because the winter would probably kill them. Once the little seedlings come up it’s important to give them a little shade for a while. And keep them watered. This reader couldn’t grow Hollyhocks and I can’t grow Bleeding Hearts.

About this time of year you may find seedlings of Hollyhocks, Larkspur, Columbine, Sweet Wiliam, etc. If you like the parent plant and if it’s worthy of the time, these should be carefully guarded, for here is a way to stretch your garden budget. Tag these little seedlings carefully for transplanting next spring. Remember that phlox rarely come true from seeds. They must be transplanted with the good old shovel method.

It’s believed by some gardeners that perennials are planted only in spring. So it happens that many nurseries don’t stock up heavily on perennials for fear of getting stuck with them. The truth is that perennials are better planted in early fall than in spring. Just be sure to get them in the ground soon enough that they can get some root growth before winter winds and freezes. In fact, I have found some good bargains in fall because the nurseries want to get rid of perennials before winter. It’s worth checking out. Always the frugal gardener!

Japanese iris that have grown in the same spot for three or four years should be taken up now and divided.

Since it’s too early to plant your fall bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and crocus, why not make a crude drawing of your beds now that you can determine just where the bulbs should go. You might even get a real early start by working the soil and adding a little fertilizer to get ready for planting later. Continue to hand pick any bagworms that have made a home on your shrubs and also look for any tent caterpillars that might be lurking in the crotches of your trees. If you can, cut out the homes of the caterpillars and burn them. If you can’t, try to cut a hole in the bag and spray with Sevin. Hunt them late in the day when all the caterpillars have gone back to the tents.

Don’t do any heavy pruning of your landscape plants now. They are getting ready for winter. When winter gets here you can prune some hollies, magnolias or evergreens for Christmas. But keep in mind that any pruning must be done carefully so you don’t leave any “holes” in the plants. I have always thought it quite handy that when the greenery should be pruned is just the time I wanted some decorations for Christmas.

If you have had to cut off any limbs damaged in recent wind storms, remember that you should not leave any stub. Cut the limb flush with the tree. The stub will only give insects and disease a way to get inside the tree. And don’t use any wound dressing as we once thought because then no air could get to the wound and it becomes diseased.

I have advised a few gardeners that the Knockout rose is such a great plant because it doesn’t have any insect enemies. Wrong! I just read that a rose slug gets on them. They overwinter in the soil and emerge to start feeding in May. They are tiny larvae that feed on the underside of the leaves. They look like a little caterpillar. If only a little damage has been done, cut off the damaged stems and burn them. If the damage is severe, spray with Sevin which kills this insect. Be sure to remove all fallen leaves and any plant debris throughout the year. So I guess the rose growers have not yet come out with the perfect rose that is impervious to disease and insects.

I am hearing a lot of complaints about the Japanese beetle. You could write a book about the stages and control of this pest. But some little known facts might help you. Many birds, including bobwhites, cardinals, robins, crows and grackles, eat the Japanese beetle. Someone has said that at least grackles are good for something. Also starlings, grackles and crows will eat the grubs in really badly infested areas. So if you see a large flock on your lawn, be grateful. They are doing you a favor. An organic approach is “milky spore” which I have used successfully in several places. This gets rid of most if not all of the grubs and thus the moles which eat the grubs and tear up your lawn.

But then the beetles may fly over to your lawn from a neighbor’s and start the whole thing over again.

For those readers who have noticed a lack of snake tales, I am saving them for another day!

(You can reach me at 270-522-3632 or write to Ronella Stagner, 137 Main St., Cadiz, KY. 42211.)
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