Posts Tagged ‘Pests’

Wildflower Gardening for Wildlife

Icon Written by Wayne on June 1, 2010 – 12:01 am

DeerWildflower Gardening is a must for those gardeners interested in attracting wildlife. Whether your interest lies with butterflies, moths, birds or other critters the surest way to attract them into your gardens is by planting what is familiar to them. No self respecting White-Tailed Deer would be caught dead in a bamboo cane break. Also you would not find many American Bullfrogs feeding on insects in a sunny cacti garden. If you provide wildlife with the right food and shelter they will come.

Some gardeners worry about wildlife doing damage to their plants. Unfortunately, many uninformed gardeners actually go to great lengths to discourage natures critters. We have found that if you provide plants that wildlife naturally feed on, they will do little damage to your other garden plants. Sure you might have a few plants nibbled on, particularly in times of stress, but this is a small price to pay for having wildlife around.

Last Spring we were fortunate to have twin White-tailed Deer born in our wetland area. We watched the “twins” grow from cute little spotted fawns to full size deer through the Summer. Some of our plants became a little tattered from their nibbling and we definitely did not have to cut back our roses in the Fall, but what fun we had watching them grow up. We would not have traded the experience for all the plants in our gardens.

MonarchSimilarly, the Monarch Butterfly larva can eat a lot of Pink Swamp Milkweed foliage, but what wonder it is to watch an adult emerge from its Chrysalis. We are only too happy to see butterfly and moth larva feeding on our wildflowers as we know soon adults will be drifting about laying more eggs for the next generation.

file3How we remember the times when pesticides were so over used that it was rare to see any butterflies and moths. Fortunately, today we realize how important all of natures creatures are and how they interact with each other. Knowledgeable gardeners now plant to encourage their presents, and why not, what would gardening be without them.

Fortunately Wildflower Gardening has enjoyed an increase in popularity as gardeners have discovered their importance and how to use them effectively. Wildflowers are not only finding their way into the traditional garden but, are being used increasingly as a replacement for the traditional lawn, all but eliminating mowing. States are turning to wildflowers along highways to reduce maintenance costs. While large well groomed lawns and roadsides may be attractive to some, they are actually a very barren natural environment.

Successful urban wildflower gardening requires careful planning, soil preparation, and seeding. Pick your site carefully. Make sure that the area receives plenty sunlight, 6-8 hours for most wild plants. Usually site preparation will take one to two years using a combination of cultivation and herbicide applications to eliminate existing growth, roots, and weed seeds.

Your task will be made easier if you choose a site that does not border areas of aggressive weedy plants. You will also have to allow for the soil type in site selection. For example, many plants hate heavy clay soils while others cannot stand to have their feet wet.

Select a variety of wildflowers including some of our native grasses. You want to have a variety, not only for color but to maintain bio-diversity. By providing plants occupying different parts of the soil, you help insure that wildflowers will squeeze out competing weeds. This is one of the secrets to having a low maintenance garden.

file11While wildfowers have become more widely available today, do not expect to buy a packet of seeds at the corner drugstore, sprinkle them around, and magically have a field of flowers. By all means avoid buying seed at your local nursery unless you know that they specialize in wildflower gardening. Most pre-packaged seeds are not worth the effort to plant. It might be nostalgic to use “North Manitou Island Wildflowers” or “Yellowstone’s Buffalo Blend”, but the chances of the seeds growing into something beautiful are slim.

Make your seed selection carefully. Look not only for flower type but also purity of seed. We recommend using nothing less then 95% pure seeds. We strongly suggest that you visit Prairie Nursery and Wildseed Farms web sites before starting. Both sites have a tremendous amount of helpful information on site selection, preparation, and plant selection. Both sell top quality seeds that the home gardener can depend on.

With a little planning and some up-front work, you too can have something that will last for years with little maintenance. We consider wildflowers just that, native plants for the wildlife to enjoy. Hopefully, we all have had our enjoyment out of them. If they are tattered, worm eaten, and grazed over by the end of the season it really does not matter. The butterflies, birds, and other wildlife will love you too. We know that the “Twins” sure loved our roses.


Tips of the Month

Wildflowers come in many shapes and colors, what is found growing in one part of the word as wild is probably being cultivated somewhere else. Many of our native plants have made the jump from being called weeds to being nurtured as prize specimen plants. Probably this is not better illustrated than the life of our native prairie Coneflowers and Black-Eyed Susan. We recommend the following plants, all of which can be found in our Plant Data Base:

  1. Echinacea pallida Pale Purple Coneflower blooms in early summer, 2-3 inch, pale-lavender, slender ray flowers droop gracefully on this lance-leaved prairie native.
  2. Echinacea pupurea Rubinstern is a medium tall coneflower with glowing red flowers with horizontal petals on robust plants. Stands out immediately when first seen.
  3. Echinacea purpurea Fragrant Angel is a white coneflower that others can only aspire to. Grows just like ‘Ruby Giant’, with large, fragrant, and horizontal flowers with layered, overlapping petals and huge yellow cones.
  4. Echinacea purpurea Magnus is a native found in open woods and on prairies. It grows to three feet in height and has long stiff stems with one large cone with showy purple ray flowers.
  5. Echinacea purpurea Art’s Pride is a coneflower comes from the breeding program of Dr. Jim Ault of the Chicago Botanic Garden. The lack of summer orange in the garden has been cured. Each two foot wide clump of slender green foliage is topped starting in late June and continuing through the summer with spikes of rustic-orange flowers.
  6. Echinacea simulata Glade Coneflower or Wavyleaf Purple Coneflower is a very showy coneflower with long stalks and long drooping dark pink petals around a dark brown, dome shaped central disk.
  7. Rudbeckia grandfloria Black-Eyed Susan has long-stalked leaves, hairy stems, robust form and gold daisies with dark eyes are characteristics of this drought-tolerant species.
  8. Rudbeckia laciniata Herbstonne is a delightful plant with drooping warm yellow petals relaxing around a green central disc. A large plant that really stands out when in full bloom.
  9. Echinacea purpurea Kim’s Mop Head is single, white-flowered selection with a greenish disc. The “mop head” description refers to the petals that are fringed . This compact selection makes a great addition to the front of sunny borders, and glows along paths in the evening garden.


Flower of the Month


Rudbeckia amplexicaulis Clasping Coneflower

A hardy annual native to the southeastern United States, and has naturalized throughout most of North America. The identifiable black, cone-shaped heads are surrounded by bright yellow, drooping reflexed ray flowers. Often forms dense colonies in moist areas. A very heavy reseeder.


Featured Web Site

Easyliving Native Perennial Wildflowers

It is a site for and about wildflowers native to the Midwest. Beautiful Native Wild Flowers for Home Landscaping and Prairie Restoration can be found here. Seed for wild flowers that are easy to grow, resistant to drought and pests, and provide unlimited pleasure by attracting butterflies, hummingbirds and other critters. This site has loads of information, photos, and resources for the home gardener

Attacking Slugs in the Garden

Icon Written by Geoff on August 1, 2004 – 12:01 am

Ask any gardener, who grows hostas or other broadleaf plants, for their candidate for one of the most distasteful garden pests and they will say the slug. With our wet Spring weather and humid Summers slugs are a problem in this area. 

Slugs are simply snails without shells, we will refer to the two of them interchangeably throughout our discussion. The most common slugs encountered by the home gardener are the grey garden slug, the greenhouse slug, and the banded slug. Slugs and snails lay their eggs in clusters under rocks, mulch, and other garden debris. All slugs require moist wet conditions and in fact will quickly die during extended dry spells. During Winter, snails and slugs hibernate in cracks in the topsoil, under mulch, or leaves and dead plant matter. 

Slugs are usually nocturnal, they hide in the mulch during the day, so you rarely see the pests only the damage. They eat irregular holes in all kinds of foliage but love hostas. A sure sign that slugs are present is when a plant’s lower leaves have been chewed or the silvery trails snails leave as they move about. 

Slugs feed on a variety of plants as well as ripening fruit and tender bark. They prefer succulent foliage plants or flowers. They can consume several times their own body weight each night. Slugs tend to avoid plants with hairy leaves or those with a milky sap. Some plants like artemisias, astilbe, baby’s breath, columbine, coralbells, coreopsis, dianthus, lupines, peonies, rudbeckia, and sedum are resistant to them. 

Snails and slugs do have some natural enemies, including some beetles, toads, turtles, and birds also feed on them. Ducks, geese, or chickens will readily feed on them. Unfortunately, we have found that these also like to dine on young tender plants and berries. 

Fortunately, we have not had a problem with slugs and snails even though we grow hundreds of hostas and other succulent plants. Even with all the ground cover we have, slugs are all but non-existent. This was not always the case but, once we began completely cleaning up all Fall garden debris and cut back spent foliage, they just seemed to disappear. All of our compost piles are kept far away from the rest of the garden. 

We also use only course wood chips and pine needle mulch, this is renewed yearly before the plants began to leaf out. While we do not raise ducks and chickens, although I would like to, we do entice birds into our gardens with many feeders, birdbaths, and nesting areas. We particularly encourage ground feeding birds such as robins, towhees, blackbirds, and thrushes to feed in the garden. 

Slugs can also be controlled by a variety of other means which we have listed in the “Tips Section “. Most of these are time consuming or require the use of chemicals, the former we do not have enough of and the latter we try to avoid. We do not doubt that they work but we suggest that you review your gardening practices first. We have found a clean garden is also a slug free garden.

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Diagnosing Shrub and Tree Problems

Icon Written by Geoff on January 1, 2003 – 7:30 pm

We often receive calls asking for advice or help with a sick tree or shrub. Usually the questions are hard to answer over the telephone, without seeing the tree, but not always. Two of the most common questions are; “Why did the leaves on my Amur Maple turn bright red and fall off when it is only Summer?” or “My White Pine’s needles turned brown this Winter when does it turn green again?”. 

The answer to both these questions are, unfortunately, never as these trees are dead. Nothing can be done to save them and costly replacements will be required. If only the homeowner had taken the time to inspect his trees and shrubs in time correct to the problem, these trees may have been alive today. 

Of course, not all tree problems can be solved easily, just ask the American Elm or Chestnut, if you can find one. Catching a plant problem in the early stage, at least gives you a chance. It also gives you an opportunity not to make the same mistake twice, such as planting too deep or in the wrong location. Who knows, you might even be able to save a tree or two by your quick action. 

If you are like me, you overlook your trees and shrubs in the Spring and Summer, when everything else is in bloom. I have to make it a point to inspect each tree and shrub. You need to do the same, it only takes a few minutes. 

The Colorado State University has but together a list of the most common symptoms and theircauses which you can use as a quick reference. 

  1. Symptoms: Poor foliage color, stunted weak growth, gradual decline.
    1. Planting too deeply or too shallow.
    2. Poor drainage; plants located near down spouts, in low areas, in non-drained planter boxes, and in beds over very compacted soil.
    3. Damage to stem or trunk
      1. Freeze damage.
      2. Bark splitting caused by sudden freeze following periods of mild weather. Symptoms may not show until summer time.
      3. Mechanical damage such as, lawn mower or other equipment can skin or girdle bark or borer damage occurring when these insects gain entrance into the stem and destroy tissue just under the bark.
    4. Poor soil preparation, heavy soils that are easily packed and very sandy soils produce poor growth.
    5. Soils too acid or too alkaline.
    6. Drought damage, usually occurs on plants in light sandy soils, under overhanging roofs, or in planter boxes.
    7. Nematode damage, microscopic work-like organisms attack root system and interfere with ability of roots to take up water and nutrients.
    8. Needs proper fertilizer.
    9. Competition from other trees, trees and shrubs often compete with other plants for water, light, and nutrients.
    10. Pot bound root system, roots were not altered as needed at planting.
  2. Symptoms: Shrubs die suddenly.
    1. Too much fertilizer kills roots and top cannot get needed water. Damage more likely to occur during dry periods.
    2. Root rots caused by fungi or bacteria.
    3. Insects, borers and beetles that attack trunk can cause sudden damage.
    4. Severe drought with new plants and shallow-rooted plants most susceptible.
    5. Leakage from underground gas lines.
    6. Weed killer damage when applied incorrectly.
  3. Symptoms: Yellowing foliage.
    1. Insects small sucking insects.
    2. Poorly drained soil.
    3. Too much fertilizer.
    4. Needs proper fertilizer.
    5. Soils too acid or too alkaline.
    6. Nematode damage.
    7. Damage to stem or trunk.
    8. Poor soil preparation.
    9. Roots disturbed by cultivation, roots of shallow-rooted plants are easily damaged by cultivation.
    10. Construction, damage from nearby grading or construction often result in damage to roots or soil filled over roots.
    11. Pot bound root system.
  4. Symptoms: Leaf drop in spring.
    1. Natural occurrence, older leaves fall as new leaves develop.
    2. Unusually wet or dry conditions, trees shed leaves to deal with stress.
  5. Symptoms: Failure to flower.
    1. Shrubs or trees are too young, age and a slowdown in growth rate will increase flowering.
    2. Too much vegetative growth because of overfeeding.
    3. Pruned at the wrong time, prune spring flowering shrubs after blooming and summer flowering shrubs in fall and winter.
    4. Too much shade.
  6. Symptoms: Failure to produce berries.
    1. Cold or frost during flowering; kills developing fruit.
    2. Female plant with no male friend around or only male plants
    3. Improper pruning, often berries are produced on older growth.
  7. Symptoms: Occasional branches die.
    1. Stem breakage, shrubs such as dwarf holly have brittle limbs, easily broken by animals or children.
    2. Disease.
    3. Insects.
  8. Symptoms: Browning of leaf tips and edges and leaf spotting.
    1. Drought.
    2. Cold damage, exposure to bright light and strong winds during low temperatures. Spots develop when ice accumulated on foliage in sun. Injury also occurs during prolonged periods of freezing temperatures.
    3. Poor drainage.
    4. Root loss due to recent transplanting.
    5. Too much fertilizer.
    6. Root rot diseases.
    7. Damage to stem or trunk.

Many problems found can be corrected by the homeowner. While not easy, trees can be moved, drainage improved, and Winter protection can be provided. The homeowner can also learn proper pruning techniques, fertilization methods, and to be more careful mowing and trimming. We recommend, for large tree damage, insect, or disease problems, the owner call in a professional arborist. One can quickly be located by going to the National Arborists Association’s web site and typing in your zip code. For example, in our area, when you type in 49120 it tells youWatson’s Tree Service is the one to call.

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Mole Control

Icon Written by Geoff on August 1, 1997 – 6:09 pm

Moles can become a pest at anytime of the year. They eat grubs and earthworms but do not feed on flower bulbs or plant roots. They are the animals that make your yard look like a war zone.

There is no chemical means to control moles except to kill the grubs and earthworms that they eat. The only option is to trap the moles. Moles have two types of tunnels. One type is used only once, the other type is used regularly. The trap must be set on those tunnels the moles use regularly.

A less scientific method is available when the tunnels can be observed for a day. Step on those regularly used tunnels so they are completely pushed down. Look at the tunnels often through the day. When the tunnel is being pushed up, turn on the garden hose and push it into the tunnel near where the mole is working. The mole will be forced to the soil surface where it can be killed.

If you need someone else to take care of your mole problem, there is actually a company in Niles which will come out and trap your moles called Wild Animal Services.

Source: Michigan State University Extension

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