Shade plants with large leaves such as Hosta usually have large flat surfaces exposed to as much light as possible.  They can not handle bright sun so what light they get needs to count! Since they generally have fewer leaves we need to protect them from the weather and insect damage. Plants operate on solar power as they can convert light into energy by photosynthesis. Full sun is usually considered to be 10 to 12 hours of light per day. Any new plant needs to be marked for its light requirement or one is likely to have an unhappy plant.  Phalaenopsis Orchids respond in little light by having dark green leaves while in too much light they become lighter in color toward yellow.

          I have read we are expecting a dry summer again this year.  The water savers have succulent leaves for storing water, small leaves, or finely dissected ones (less surface area to lose water) or silver or grey leaves that reflect extra light, fuzzy leaves that reduces evaporation, or thorns with less surface area and thick wall to prevent evaporation. My mother kept a supply of wooden shingles. As we planted Tomatoes we placed a shingle on the south side.  They were always taller than the plants and kept a good deal of sun off until the roots could get started. They could then be pulled up and stored for the next spring. 

          I always plant some of my Tomatoes like “Sungold” and “4th of July” too early.  I put a huge pot beside them upside down and if worst comes to worst, I can put 2 milk cartons of hot water beside them and plop the big pot over the plant and cartons to keep them from freezing.

          Did your notice irregular holes cut between the veins in the leaves of your Hosta with more and more appearing each day? The leaves are letting you know that Slugs are having lunch.  You can use “Sluggo” or other brands containing Iron Phosphate granules. If you had Slugs last summer, watch for your plants to come up and then spread the granules on the soil around the new leaves following the label directions. You can also put damp old towels, burlap, or wet boards flat on the ground. Lift them the next morning to find the slug hiding for the day. The slugs squish easily or you can drop them in soapy water.

          Did your Iris plants not seem to be doing well after blooming last summer? Did you notice saw tooth edges on the leaves in the summer? Borers lay their eggs in late summer and then in the spring the caterpillars (borers) bore in and eat into the rhizomes, the leaves turn yellow, and the flower buds turn brown.  Rot quite often follows their feeding. Clean up in the fall is important in order to remove eggs. Some growers use their mower to remove most of the foliage in the late fall.  There are sprays you can use at egg hatching time to help control.

          Your new seeds all came up so you have a carpet of new plants, and you water them all carefully.  Next day the plants are lying down with a brown area in their stem barely above the soil line. There may be fluffy growth on the soil or seedlings. Your plants are telling you they have “damping off” disease. There is no control for this so you must prevent it by sowing seed thinly, have good air circulation, and avoid over watering. Use a sterile potting mix, or the top of your soil should be a seed starting mix which contains sphagnum peat moss to keep the fungous from ever getting started. I fill my pots about 3/ 4 full of new damp potting or container mix. The last 1/ 4 is a seed starting media.  I like to water from below by putting the pots in a tray and watering the tray rather than pushing seeds around by pouring from above. Do not let your pots stand in the water for a long time, only enough to absorb the water.

          If you see what looks like tiny umbrellas on the underside of your leaves that cling tightly, you have scale insects. These umbrellas are the adults clinging to the leaf and drinking its sap. The leaves may also be sticky. A number of insects will drink the sap, use the protein, and then excrete the sugary part. The umbrellas protect them somewhat from your sprays so if you can notice when the nymphs are leaving home your sprays will work much better. On my houseplants I like to get a systemic insecticide which dissolves and is taken up by the roots to poison the drinkers. Do not use these systemic chemicals on your vegetable plants. Outside you can also use a horticultural oil to suffocate the egg masses and adults. Read the label to make sure it is ok to use on your given plant.

          When you visit your Rose bushes and their foliage looks a little streaky, and instead of a few thorns they seem to be completely covered with softer, shorter thorns, the plant may be telling you it has “Rose Mosaic”. If there is any doubt, find someone who can help you identify this problem. IT IS FATAL!!! IT IS CATCHING!!! The plant needs to be removed as soon as possible.

          Plants can talk!!! Learn to listen to what they are saying. If you don’t know, ask someone who does to help you.

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