Several years ago I bought two JACK FROST BRUNNERA to put in a shady corner.  I found they like damp soil all the time or they droop or the leaf edges brown and dry up. To keep this dampness, but not wetness, mulch several inches deep kept them happy. This spring I had some new babies but no JACK FROST . They were like my ones from years ago so plant division is the only way to go.  The babies are very pretty so I am enlarging my patch. They have tiny blue flowers early in the spring but those silver, variegated, huge leaves make the plant and last all summer.

          Two years ago I planted seeds of annual “LADY IN RED” SALVIA in the back yard.  They bloom late in a brilliant red so last year I planted their seeds out in the parkway and again had a red blast of color. So this spring I waited for them to come up in front as I had dropped the seed stems back down, but nothing happened! The first of August small plants came up thickly in the back yard in the COREOPSIS! They bloomed merrily away until frost.  Does this mean their seed needs to rest a year? There is still no sign up front but I will watch closely both places next spring.  It is fun to have a surprise take over the space used by tired COREOPSIS.

          Have you noticed the squirrels chewing on more “things” than usual? They have eaten part of a trellis up near the top.  The pin oaks and red oaks did not have as many acorns as usual this summer. In some areas this is a good part of their late summer and winter food so I have been putting out “Bushy Tail Food” plus ears of dry corn.  I think they must wait for me or hear me coming as I put it on the patio and on a squirrel dining room that T.O. Haas made for me many years ago. By the time I get back to the house and look out the bedroom window a group is eating.  I have counted as many as 6 at one time.  Sometimes a rabbit or two has joined them. I hope this keeps them away from my plants as I had to spray with “Liquid Fence”, Hot Pepper Wax, or powdered with blood meal to keep them from getting eaten up. I had already planted white clover in the lawn as it is one of their favorite foods. Squirrels are also a problem and love fall planted bulbs, especially crocus. So I have strips of chicken wire that I fasten down on top of any new beds.

          Every year I must have a banana plant.  This year it was above the roof of the shed.  Some of its leaves were 8 feet long and 2 to 3 feet wide.  Usually it has 2 to 3 new babies come up right next to the mother plant that I cut off and take inside.  This year it didn’t do that.  BJ, my garden helper, suggested we cut it off just above the ground, dig it up, and put it in a tub in the garage with the other garage dwellers. That was quite a job as it is 12 inches across but has shallow roots, which helps. I will let you know what happens this winter and next spring.  In other years I have left the stump in the ground and by spring it is a big slimy juicy mass.

          This was the summer of powdery mildew!!! BEE BALM (Monarda), ZINNIAS, and TALL PHLOX were the worst for me. Our humidity was constantly high and we received an above average of rain.  I have had my plants for many years so they haven’t benefited from the work being done to produce resistant strains.  If you buy new plants, try to find the resistant ones.  Any shade will encourage fungous on PHLOX. Air circulation is also important so if the clump is thick, it needs to be thinned out. Spacing clumps at least 2 feet apart to let air move around the plant helps prevent the disease.

          The above is a good example of why you should not overhead water or water in the evening. Both practices keeps the leaves damp, and fungal spores love those leaves that are left damp overnight. There are fungal sprays but read the label to be sure your plants are on the list.  Some organic gardeners use 1 tablespoon of horticultural or all-seasons oil in a gallon of water. Others use 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of dish soap (not detergent) in a gallon of water. While still others find insecticidal soap does the job.  During a season like 2008 one would need to use it at least every 10 to 14 days.

          Microclimate-what is it? Do you want to grow something not rated for our zone 5? There are many things that can make a microclimate in any yard, especially an older one with shrubs, neighbor’s houses and fences. These help to create a warmer, drier, shadier, wind protected or wetter spot that varies a good deal from the rest of the yard. Plants come up earlier and live longer on the south side than on the north.  Take a walk around your yard at different seasons as well as different times of the day to help you decide what to plant and where.  A microclimate then is a smaller area in a larger one with a different environment. For example, a low spot gets cold first plus being wetter. West sides burn plants easier and dry out faster than east sides. Check out the microclimate of your yard.

          So what is a cutworm? They can be green, gray, or brown and unless you look for them you probably will never see one as they hide during the day.  They chew through the stems and you find your plants down.  If you have been bothered before, put something around that stem a little above and below ground.  If your plant stems will not be too fat, cut both ends out of an ordinary can and push it down into the soil. Some people with large stem plants such as tomatoes, use #10 cans that large quantities of vegetables come in, or coffee cans. Many restaurants will be glad to give you there extra #10 cans or save them for you. Use the same way as the smaller cans.  The new plastic coffee containers are not as easy to work with but it can be done. My neighbor has a pole in his garden that he slides the cans down during the winter to save for next year. Cutworms usually are active in spring only.  The adult is a small moth, laying its eggs where its offspring will find food.

Copyright 2008