After it starts to darken and cool down a little during the heat of the summer, it is fun to go out and see the yard begin a different life. If you have a flashlight you can find Bumble Bees sleeping in the Bee Balm (Monarda sp.). The Butterflies are asleep but the moths are out eating or looking for a friend. Early in the summer the larvae of the Fire Flies are just under the surface of soft, damp soil practicing their special flashes while the adults are flashing above looking for mates.  If you wait until very dark, the Possums will come out of their hiding places to wander around looking for food, or the Coons may come out of the storm sewers.

          Earlier the Four O’clocks (Mirabilis sp.)  will have opened. I like the ones that are multi-colored or striped and I try to have a little plot of them every summer in full sun and damp soil.  Sometimes called “Marvel of Peru”, the flowers open up late afternoon and die before morning. They do grow a tuber that can be dug and kept over winter.  They are perennials in some areas. Mine usually don’t open at 4 o’clock but will a little later.

          Brugmansia and Datura are both called Angels Trumpets with their trumpet flowers as much as ten inches long hanging down, sometimes in clusters. They do have a very pleasant perfume to make your night visits more exciting.  Since they open at night they are also called “Moonflowers”. The plants get very large so in order to save space, in the fall I take cuttings that root easily. By spring the cuttings may be 18 inches high and ready to bloom by the last of June.  They have an interesting habit of blooming some, growing for several weeks, and then blooming again.  Generally I have them in large 20 inch pots and by September the root has found the drain hole and grown through to anchor the pot. So I try to make a complete turn of the pot every so often.  It is very heavy and hard to move but can be rotated in place if the root doesn’t get too well anchored.  The plants and seeds are toxic so if you have youngsters who like to nibble, I would wait a few years.  They need careful attention to watering when in a pot.

          There is a Moon Vine that opens at night with a neat scent. “Ipomoea alba” is a perennial vine that will climb to 70 feet in its native tropics. Here in Lincoln I have had it climb a crabapple tree and cover the top with those 6 inch wide flowers.  In the Morning Glory family it needs full sun and ample water to support those 4 to 8 inch leaves.  My crop of 4 vines was started up a trellis until leaves and roots both disappeared.  I blame squirrels who dig everywhere in my yard. They like my pots as the soil is softer and easier so I have corn and oak seedlings in many places.

          You may have noticed that many night blooming plants are white. This makes it easier for the moths to find them.  Also many of them have alluring odor.  The big flowering tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris) that grows in high shade as much as 5 feet tall with a cluster of white, very fragrant, trumpet shaped flowers about 5 inches long. Nalata, the shorter tobacco plant is also strongly fragrant at night but the colored flowers don’t stand out as well as Sylvestris. Both species produces lots of very tiny seeds.  In their native South America they are perennial but here in Nebraska they are annuals.

          I have a new white Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii, sp) that is supposed to be fragrant and show at night. It is only 18 inches high but had one bloom about 12 inches long in its first year. A favorite with Butterflies, it is sometimes called a Summer Lilac After its first year it will not need a large amount of water, growing 7 to10 feet high in full sun, with good drainage. I also have a ‘Black Knight’ Butterfly Bush, a pink, and a purple bush, blooming best in July and August.  They bloom on new wood so need to be cut back to live tissue early in the Spring. I have also cut them to the ground in late fall. In a mild winter, the lower parts will start growing earlier, so for me just removing the tall parts that whip in the wind in the fall, and cutting down to the highest leaves starting in the Spring works fine.

Copyright 2010.





          A question I usually get about this time of year is, “Why do I have crabgrass now in late July and early August when I put crabgrass preventer on in March?” There are three possible reasons why:

1. Pre-emergent products must be watered in thoroughly (at least ½ inch) within 24 hours to be effective. Otherwise, the sun will break the material down.

2. If a pre-emergent was put on in March, it was applied about a month too early and by the 4th of July was worn out and the crabgrass started growing.

3. The pre-emergent crabgrass preventer may have been put on at the right time, but some products keep working longer than others. Products with Balan or Benefin (Team) as the active ingredient, has a residual or lasts only about 60 days. Pendimethalin (Scotts Halts and Miracle-Gro Pre-emergent) also lasts about 60 days. Barricade (Earl May Crabgrass Preventer with Barricade and Ferti-lome Crabgrass Preventer) and Dimension (Crab & Spurge Preventer with Dimension by Monterey ) lasts about 90 days. Dacthal and Treflan are safe to use in the vegetable and flower garden but only has a residual of about 4 to 6 weeks.

Next year, do not apply your pre-emergent to the lawn until mid to late April because the crabgrass will not germinate until about the 1st of May. Then use a product with a long residual. If you want to make sure you have season long control, put on a second application (preferably without fertilizer) the first couple of weeks in June. That will give you control for the rest of the summer. This second application in June will also help to control Spurge and Foxtail as they do not germinate until mid June.

Copyright 2010