Gloomy Scale

Cary, NC – Gloomy Scale – (photo credit)

Our friends at Leapfrog Landcare recently shared an interesting article about Gloomy Scale that is valuable information to share here with our Garden Supply Co. readers, too.  Gloomy Scale is a tiny bug that infects the healthy tissue of maple trees, especially the soft maples such as boxelder, red maple and silver maple. Grape, soapberry, native hollies, mulberry, sweetgum, and buckthorn may also be infested. And if left untreated, these little buggers can cause all sorts of havoc.

Seems that Gloomy Scale insects have been spending the winter snuggled up in their arboreal homes, and are about ready to resume development next month with their first offspring crawlers showing up in May. Crawlers are produced until the middle of August at which time practically every stage of development can be found. Males emerge in August and September and mate with new females. There is one generation per year.

Gloomy Scale detail- (photo credit)

Here’s what Greg, of Leapfrog Landcare shared.

“Gloomy Scale is a parasite that sucks the sugar out of the sap of Maple trees and when they multiply each female can reproduce up to 500 more!!! If a tree has only 50 females of this tiny bug and each of them reproduce 500 more, then that tree now has 25,000 or more Gloomy Scale that are all drinking from the tree. They keep populating the tree until it is just covered one scale on top of the other and it makes the tree trunk and limbs turn black and eventually as the infestation turns severe the tree can’t force enough sap past them to get all the way out to the ends of the limbs. So, at that point the tree starts dying from the ends of the limbs back causing a slow, ugly death.”

If left untreated, your maple trees can suffer severe damage from limb die-back or even death. But there is treatment. A horticultural oil as a dormant application is probably the most effective chemical treatment for gloomy scale control. However, sometimes trees are so large that thorough coverage is difficult. That’s when it is a good idea to call in the experts, like Greg. But hurry, you’ll need to treat your trees before their leaves come out this spring.

For more information on Gloomy Scale and it’s treatment, come talk to our friendly experts at Garden Supply Co. or look up Greg at Leapfrog Landcare. They offer full tree and shrub treatment plans as well as organic lawncare services for all your home garden maintenance needs.

Pruning 101

Cary, NC

To Prune or Not to Prune

To prune or not to prune is a question that often comes up in gardening discussions. When is the right time of year, and just how far back should a plant be pruned? For a concept that seems fairly simple in theory, these questions leave lots of room for doubt. So how do you know what and when to prune? Here are some general rules:

When

Right now, we are sitting on the fence between two seasons. It’s not quite full winter anymore, yet not quite spring, either. Deciduous plants are still without their leaves, evergreens are resting, and perennials have died back to the ground. This is a good time of year to prune some plants.

For many plants, time of year really does make a difference in successful pruning. Pruning is an invigorating process that stimulates plants to put out new growth. If you stimulate growth at the wrong time of year, such as fall or early winter, a plant will be encouraged to develop new and tender branches that are easily susceptible to weather damage.  A plant expends energy to grow these branches that typically break in a windstorm and have minimal flowering and fruiting capabilities. Simply by waiting to prune until late winter or early spring, a gardener can reduce the number of tender, susceptible sprouts on a tree or shrub.

Always prune a spring-flowering shrub after it blooms. Pruning in winter would eliminate its spring blooms.

Evergreen, non-flowering shrubs can be pruned at any time, however if they are pruned in the spring they will have a chance to put out new growth and get fuller before the following winter.

Dead, Damaged, or Diseased

Dead, damaged, or diseased wood can be pruned out of plants anytime of year. It is important to remove such branches as soon as they are discovered. Dead or damaged branches become easy targets for insects and also allow for the entry of diseases. And once a disease infects a plant, it will continue to spread to healthy tissue unless removed.

How

With pruning, develop a less-is-more methodology. Prune only if you need to. Choose plants that reach their desired height and shape with minimal pruning.

Remove suckers at the base of trees. Also remove crossing branches from the center of small trees and shrubs back to a main branch or trunk. Branches that cross and rub across each other cause damage to plant tissue, thus allowing insects and diseases a way in.

When pruning limbs and branches, prune back to about a one-quarter inch above a bud using a slanting cut. The bud is where new growth occurs. A slanting cut will help keep the pruned area dry after a rain.

Never prune back more than one-third of a shrub. Too much pruning will shock a plant, and can cause death.

Ornamental grasses should be cut back to a few inches above the ground before they put out new growth in the spring.

Large Trees

Large trees should always be pruned by a certified arborist. Trained arborists will take care to only prune if needed, and in the correct manner. They also have all the necessary equipment and experience to prevent injury to yourself or your property.

Care Tip

Once you’ve finished pruning, it’s a good idea to use an anti-bacterial spray on your pruners before putting them away. This will help prevent bacterial diseases from spreading.

For more tips on pruning, stop by the garden center. Our friendly experts are on hand seven days a week with answers to all your gardening questions.

Planting for Transplant

Garden Supply Co.- Cary, NC

For those of you interested in getting a jump start on the spring growing season, now is the time to start those seedlings for transplant in the garden next month. With a little careful planning and preparation now, you can have any number of flowering annuals, herbs, and vegetables ready for planting, weeks ahead of a regular direct-sown outdoor planting schedule. And we’ll tell you how.

Planning

Plan to organize your seed packets this month to create a sowing schedule for your seeds. Look up the date of the last expected freeze in your area, and use that as a guideline for planning. You can find information on frost dates for most cities in North Carolina from the National Climatic Data Center website. Then check the instructions on the seed packets to find the number of weeks of growth required before each seedling can be transplanted to the garden outside. Count the weeks back from the last expected freeze to know when to sow your seeds.

Planting

Here’s a few tips for sowing seeds for transplant.

1. Moisten a sterile, seed-starting mixture and fill your pots or trays to within 1/4 inch of the top.

2. Sow very fine seeds with vermiculite or sand. Mix the seeds with the vermiculite or sand and pour the mix into the center of a folded piece of paper. Tap the paper gently over the medium to sow the seeds.

When sowing medium to large seeds, use the end of a pencil to create a hole in the mix. Plant seeds no deeper than recommended. Drop one or two seeds in each hole.

3. Press extremely fine seeds lightly into the medium, or water them in with a fine mist spray. Cover the seed if light is not required for germination. A thin layer of vermiculite is enough. Otherwise, leave the seed uncovered, exposed to light.

For medium to large seeds, cover seeds to a depth equal to twice their diameter.

4. Label the pot or flat with the name of the plant and the date it was planted. Read the packet and make note of the date the seed is expected to germinate so you will know when to expect sprouts to appear.

5. Spray mist the seeds to water them in. If watering from the top may disturb the seeds, place the entire container into a tub containing a few inches of water. Allow the mixture to become saturated, then set  the pots or flats aside to drain.

6. Cover the pots or trays with plastic wrap, or put them in a plastic bag secured at the top to retain moisture.

7. Unless the seeds require cool temperatures, move them to a location between 65 and 75 degrees F. in bright but indirect light. When the seeds have sprouted, expose them to bright light. Remove the plastic covering and put them under fluorescent lights. Two 40-watt fluorescent lights are a good choice and provide the quality of light required by the plants. Set the trays on your light stand and lower the lights so they’re barely touching the topmost leaves. Keep the lights on for sixteen hours each day. An automatic timer can help here. As the seedlings grow, raise the lights.

Watering

Determine the need for watering by squeezing the top 1/2 inch of medium between your fingers. If water squeezes out easily, there’s plenty of water. If the medium feels moist but water is difficult to squeeze out, add water. Just remember to water the seed flats no more than necessary.

Fertilizing

Seedlings growing in soil-less mixtures need to be fertilized when the first true leaves appear. Feed at every other watering with a water-soluble fertilizer to promote faster growth until the plants are ready to be transplanted outdoors.

For more information and all the supplies you need to start your own garden indoors this month, be sure to stop by the garden center. Our friendly experts are on hand 7 days a week to help with all your gardening needs. Hope to see you soon!

Winter/Spring Blooming Bulbs

Spring brings the welcome sight of flowering bulbs after a long and cold winter, starting with early snowdrops and crocus, then daffodils, and last but not least, tulips. Most varieties will be perennial, and many multiply in number yearly. Their successful showing next spring depends on the steps you take now in planning, planting, and care for your bulbs. So if you’re looking forward to beautiful blooms this winter and spring, here’s what you need to know.

Planning

While bulbs are commonly planted in formal beds, borders, or containers, many work well in naturalized plantings. Plan to create some naturalized areas in your landscape in the following ways:

Randomly scatter crocuses, daffodils, grape hyacinths, snowdrops, and snowflakes, and plant them where they fall. They look better when planted in clumps or drifts, so you may need to move them around a bit.

Plant spring-flowering bulbs along the edges of woodland areas or beneath the canopies of deciduous trees. Keep in mind that they should receive plenty of sunlight and finish blooming before the trees leaf out.

Insert bulbs such as crocuses in your warm-season lawn. The crocuses will brighten up the lawn and be finished blooming before it’s time to mow next spring.

Spring Blooming Bulbs from Garden Supply Co.

Planting

Now is a good time to plant spring-blooming bulbs. Remember that these bulbs require an extended cold period to bloom reliably. When bulbs don’t receive sufficient cold treatment, they produce flowers on shortened stems that are lower to the ground and often hidden by their leaves. So if you haven’t already done so, place your spring-blooming bulbs in an old refrigerator for several weeks of chill down before planting.

Follow suggested planting depths when placing your bulbs. The general rule is this: plant bulbs at a depth equal to three times the height of the bulb. Be sure to use a time-release bulb fertilizer at planting time.

*helpful hint* – some bulbs naturally resist attack by squirrels, chipmunks, and voles, but many make tasty winter-time snacks for hungry animals. We suggest dipping your bulbs in I Must Garden’s Squirrel Repellant before planting. For already established plantings, spray or dust formulas are available for surface treatment.

Care for Your bulbs

Fertilize new and established beds with a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer. Don’t wait until spring, because the bulbs are producing roots and foraging for nutrients now. Keep in mind that naturalized bulbs need to be fertilized on an annual basis to encourage perennialization.

Summer bulbs which could be killed by winter freezes should be lifted, dried, and stored. Cannas, dahlias, gladioli, caladium, and tuberous begonias should be removed after their foliage is killed by frost. Because they won’t survive the winter outdoors, they need to be cleansed of soil and stored indoors in a cool but frost-free location.

Mulch plantings with compost, pine straw, or hardwood mulch to protect tender and semi-hardy bulbs from the winter cold.

And finally, clean up and remove old, dried iris leaves, stems, and other debris to help eliminate overwintering eggs from nasty pests or iris borers.

As always, our friendly staff is available 7 days a week to answer all your spring-blooming bulb or any gardening questions you may have.  And we have a fabulous selection of bulbs to choose from, from all your classic favorites to more unusual and unique offerings. Stop by and let us help you create the garden of your dreams.

Prime Time Planting

What a welcome relief it’s been to finally have temperatures dropping and a respite from summer’s heat and humidity. In just a few short days, Autumn will be officially here. And I, for one, couldn’t be happier. Now we can look forward to cooler days and crisp air, football season,  and the color of changing foliage. Fall is also the prime time of year for planting new trees and shrubs in your home landscape. Planting now will allow your new plants to become firmly established before the heat of next summer kicks in. Here are a few handy planting tips to keep in mind for when you’re ready to get started.

Handle balled & burlapped (B&B) plants by the ball and container plants by the pots as much as possible.  If your new plants must be held for several days before planting, put them in an area where they will be protected from excessive sun or drying winds.  Water thoroughly every 2-3 days until planting.  Check daily, as more or less frequent watering may be necessary depending upon weather conditions and the size of the plant.

Consider the mature size of the plant and be familiar with sun and moisture requirements as well.  Pick an area that will accommodate these requirements.  Do not plant in excessively wet or dry soil.

Your hole should be dug at least 1 1/2 times the width, but NO deeper than the size of the root ball.  Mix existing soil in equal parts with soil conditioner and composted cow manure.  An adequate amount of Bio-tone, Plant-tone, or Holly-tone and Dynamite fertilizer should be added to insure nutrient content.

Remove the plant from its pot by placing your hand on top of the root ball and turning over.  Tap and pull the pot until the root ball slips out.  Loosen any roots if necessary on pot-bound plants.  On B&B plants, do not remove any wire, string, or burlap.

Place a portion of your amended soil mixture in the bottom of the hole so that 1/4 of the height of the root ball is above ground level, depending on the moisture content.  Backfill around root ball, using soil mixture.  Lightly tamp soil to hold plant in position and help insure good root-to-soil contact.

Mound remainder of amended soil mixture up to the edge of the root ball to produce a “ring” for water retention and root insulation.  See photo above.  Place mulch at a maximum depth of 1 to 2 inches on top of root ball and 3 inches elsewhere.  Soil conditioner or hardwood mulch is best for trees.

You can find these full instructions, along with other helpful tips on watering and lawn care, in our handy Planting Guide, available for free in the Greenhouse.  We also have a video tutorial by Garden Supply owner, Keith Ramsey, full of helpful tree planting tips on our website. And as always, our helpful staff is on hand 7 days a week to assist you with all your gardening plans.

August Care for Annuals & Biennials

Cary, NC

Our Carolina summers sure can take a toll on the average homeowner’s yard and landscape. Although a few small signs of cooler days are starting to make an appearance, we still have a little more summertime weather to get through. If your annual and biennial planting beds and containers are looking a little worse for wear right about now, here’s a few gardening tips and tricks to keep them looking in top form during this last bit of summer heat and humidity.

Care For Your Annuals

Do not disturb the soil in your flower beds during these hot August days. Loosening the soil due to cultivation can damage those tender surface roots and increase water loss from the soil. You may notice that after you break up the soil around them, plants often look much worse. So just leave well enough alone for now.

Inspect the mulch in flower beds. If wind, rain, and natural decay have reduced its thickness to an inch or less, apply more mulch to raise the level to 2 to 3 inches between plants, but only about 1/2″ around the bases of the plants.

If your bedding plants look bedraggled, clear out the annuals that have finished blooming or are overgrown.

Watering

Check the soil in flower beds to determine if you need to water. Water deeply to wet the entire root zone of the plants.  Avoid wetting the leaves to reduce the risk of fungal diseases such as leaf spots and powdery mildew.

Container-grown flowers can dry out quickly, especially when located in full sun. Check the moisture level in pots daily and water when needed. Be sure to water long enough so that it runs out of the drainage holes. Keep in mind that porous clay pots will dry out more quickly than plastic or glazed pots. Also, small pots will dry out faster than large planters.

Check on the water needs of hanging pots and baskets daily. Wind and sun dry them much more quickly than plants in other kinds of containers.

Fertilizing

If they haven’t been fertilized in over six weeks, leggy plants that have been cut back will benefit from a light feeding of fast-release fertilizer. Use a water soluble fertilizer such as 20-20-20, following label directions.

Pest Control

Be on the lookout for aphids and spider mites. You can remove these pests with a strong spray of water, or resort to a pesticide if their numbers are too high and damage is great. However, if these plants are going to be removed and replaced by cool-season annuals, spraying with a pesticide may be unnecessary. Simply remove and discard heavily infested plants instead.

Weeds

Control weeds by hand-pulling and maintaining a shallow layer of mulch. Prevent weeds from going to seed by removing the flowers. Keeping the beds weed-free will prevent competition for water and nutrients, and will also remove overwintering sites for those nasty spider mites.

For more gardening advice and tips, ask the friendly experts at Garden Supply Co. They are on hand seven days a week with help for all your gardening questions. Hope to see you all soon!