Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bees for your Garden

Are you aware that about 75% of all the fruits, nuts, and vegetables we eat in this country need to be pollinated by bees? Unfortunately Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), is a mysterious disease has caused a large decline in the European honeybee population in recent years, here and in other parts of the world. CCD makes it even more important than ever to support our native bees.

Here are a few tips to attract and feed bees in your own yard/garden.

Make your garden bee-friendly

• Welcome bees by making your garden a safe place for them to feed and nest. If you can, leave some undisturbed areas or piles on your property for ground nesters.
• Bees are sensitive to chemicals, so it is important you give them sources of pesticide-free water and mud. It is best to avoid plants that need regular spraying and dusting. Try to use nothing stronger than insecticidal soap to control pests. If you must use chemicals, apply before dawn or after sunset when bee’s aren’t active, and keep the spray off the flowers.

Plant it and They Will Come

• Growing the bee’s favorite flowering plants is a great way to help them. Remember they are attracted by sight and smell. Attract them by planting masses of easy to spot blooms.
• Some bees are attracted by certain types of flowers in a family or by tiny flowers of herbs. You will help the most bees by planting flowers that bloom from spring to frost.
• Early spring blooming tress and bulbs like crocus provide nourishment to hungry bees when they emerge from winter hibernation. As the weather warms and more flowers open bees get busy harvesting pollen. Remember to plant fall blooming flowers to provide bees plenty to eat all season.

Great Shapes

Certain flower shapes are better for attracting some bees than others.
• Start with flat or open-center flowers like yarrow. Larger bees like these.
• Single daisy shaped blooms are better than doubles, which have pollen that is harder to reach.
• Other bees prefer spires with many flowers on them like foxglove.

Native bees are continuously busy making our gardens/yards more productive. Creating a healthy environment and sharing our garden with them is an easy way to help them in their work.

Some seasonal suggestions

• Crocus
• Flowering crabapple
• Hellebore

• Alliums
• Weigela
• Yarrow

• Aster
• Agastache
• Dahlia

Thursday, April 5, 2012

April Gardening Tips for the South

Spring is well underway in the South. Here are some gardening tips to make the most of the season's cooler days in your yard.

Plant container grown perennials: Remember to prepare your planting area by adding compost to enhance nutrition and improve moisture holding ability. Once planted don't forget to water while plants settle into their new homes.

Choose perennials that will give a strong performance in late summer, when Southern gardens tend to fade. Great selections include salvias.

Scarlet or Texas Sage (Salvia coccinea)
Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)
Mealycup Sage (Salvia farinacea):
Mexican Bush Sage
Bedding Sage (Salvia splendens)
Azure Sage (Salvia azurea var. grandiflora)
Cleveland Blue Sage (Salvia clevelandii)
Peruvian Sage (Salvia discolor)
Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)
Brazilian Blue Sage (Salvia guaranitica)
Salvia 'Indigo Spires'
Silver Sage (also known as silver clary or silver clary sage)
Common sage (Salvia officinalis)

Vegetable gardening

Keep sowing seeds of lettuces and garden greens weekly to ensure a long harvest season. Sow seeds of heat-tolerant greens to extend the harvest window. Give greens afternoon shade for best growth. Some heat tollerent choices include 'Jericho' (romaine), 'Buttercrunch' (butterhead), 'Lolla Rossa' (looseleaf red), 'Black-Seeded Simpson' (looseleaf green), and oakleaf types. Malabar spinach also thrives in summer heat.

Continue direct sowing seeds of beans, squash, melons and okra. If cutworms are a problem, put collars around seedlings using recycled household items: canned food tins with bottom lids removed or toil tissue tubes cut in half.

Garden tasks

If needed, prune azaleas immediately after flowering. Make cuts to shape shrubs or remove any damaged branches.

Replace mulch around azaleas, camellias, and roses. If you suspected or battled diseases and insects with these crops last season, remove and replace mulch to eliminate any hibernating insects or spores. If disease and insects haven't been an issue, simply replenish the mulch. Refresh mulch on planting beds. If you have pine trees, gather free mulch: pine straw. It looks great around shrubs and on flowerbeds.

Tropical Plants
Move over wintered tropicals outdoors when night temperatures remain above 50F. Tuck tropicals into a shady spot and fertilize with an all-purpose fertilizer to jump-start growth. You can also remove the top inch or two of soil and add a layer of compost to boost growth

It's Time for Tubers
Over wintered caladium tubers emerge this month in the warmest parts of the South. In areas where caladiums are annuals, tuck new or stored tubers into the ground. Plant 2-3 inches deep.
Add cannas to your garden for a striking foliage show. They look great with under-plantings of asparagus fern or sweet potato vine.

Lawn care
Grass is growing in earnest now. Time mowings so you're removing only one-third of total blade growth. Follow this guide to mowing height.
Zoysia: 1/2 inch
Bermudagrass: 1/2 inch
St. Augustinegrass: 2 inches
Tall fescue: 2-1/2 inches
Sharpen your mower blade frequently. A sharp blade makes clean cuts, while a dull one tears grass blades. A torn blade provides an entry point for disease.