Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Great Aphid Attack of 2013

It happened last year as well.  The plants growing in the cellar weren't looking grand, and finally started to fall over dead.  Inspection with a magnifying glass (as my eyes are terrible) showed a massive aphid invasion.

Last year's attack was awful, and not caught until far too late.  I ended up losing an entire flat of red salvia, and replanting them in early April.  Although they ended up doing perfectly well, they were very small when they went outside and blooming was severely delayed.

This year I was expecting them.  And lo and behold, there they were at the end of March.  Although they damaged the Melampodium enough (and the spray I used did enough damage) that I replanted those, the salvia were untouched, as was everything else.

Treatment for aphids is quite simple.  You can use a water spray, as from the sprayer on your kitchen sink, to blast them off.  Most of them will wash down the drain.  Repeat this every four to five days.

With 12 flats, that's a bit unrealistic.  I mixed up 1/2 tsp dishwashing liquid in 1 pint of water and sprayed the plants thoroughly.  Aphids absolutely detest soap, and it kills them.

Repeat four days later, and then keep an eye on it.  Some plants may not handle the soap well, as my Melampodium didn't, so you can also use any indoor-safe insecticide made for a wide spectrum of houseplants.  Remember that your young annuals are very tender, so test before use and monitor after usage very closely.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

More Annual Selections

This gardening thing works better if you can count correctly.  Which, apparently, presented a problem for me this year.  In my defense, it wasn't completely my fault.

I've discontinued most of the cup-based plants, so I picked up half a shelf.  A bit of rearranging and higher counts on the cells in the flats gave me another half shelf total.  So I really have space for 2 extra flats.

Plus the Scarlet Dreamland Zinnia didn't have the best sprout percentages.  That's putting me a quarter of a flat short right there.

So I placed another order with Parks', as there's still plenty of time to wait for delivery and plant the seeds.  I selected the following:

More Scarlet Dreamland Zinnia:  They're a staple, and I'm short on reds anyway.

Profusion Double Hot Cherry Zinnia:  Did I mention I'm short on reds?

Coral Dreamland Zinnia:  A bit off the beaten color trail that I tend to follow, but striking enough to work in a garden with dominant colors.

Night and Day Snapdragons:  About that being short on reds thing...  These are more of a deep scarlet and cream, but very pretty and dramatic enough for where I want them.  I've never seen these before, so here's the link:  Night and Day Snapdragons

Time's a bit short on the snapdragons, so I expect those will be small, will have a limited spring blooming cycle, and should do better in fall.  I have those planned for a mostly-sunny location protected from the worst of the heat, so they should do fine even in summer.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Seeds: The Ides of March

It wasn't the best day for Julius Caesar, but it's a day of some import for northern plant growers.

Today begins the part of the season when your fast-developing plants can be started!  Marigolds, cosmos, zinnia, petunia plugs, and almost anything else are now in play!

You have a wide window, however.  We're now five to six weeks out from the planting dates for most of us in PA, NJ, and southern or coastal NY (it's a bit longer for areas in central New York and the rest of New England, the Midwest states will vary).  Cosmos will develop enough to be planted outside in two to three weeks, although having longer is nice.  Mine went last week--I have to play with the windows a little bit as I have over 1,000 plants to go.

Marigolds will do fine if your seed is planted before about April 10th.  Zinnia and most others, the same.

If you still have work to do, don't despair.  Although technically too late for many things, you can still plant them.  Just realize they'll be smaller than average when placed outside and may require a little more time to develop and bloom for you.  Even salvia will be fine up until the beginning of April, but they will be small.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

March Lawn/Garden Photos

The lawn's returning very quickly this year as the photo below shows. I mowed for the first time to remove the dead tips and expose the green grass underneath.  As with any photo, please click to embiggen it.

The weather looks fairly good for the rest of the month, with lows not going much under 20°.  That should be sufficient to keep it from going to sleep, particularly with daily highs in the forties and fifties through the period.

I took my soil samples today as well, for both the lawn and gardens.  As always, this is an exercise in moving the worms out of the way so I can get the soil!

 Img 3585

Here's the very first blooming flower in the garden this year, a yellow crocus. Both of these popped open today.  They're in one of the most sheltered areas of the garden, so this small patch is usually the first to blossom.  The rest will wait a week or so before opening their blooms.

 IMG 3581

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Start More Seeds Now!

For those of us in the northeast, we're eight to ten weeks out from last frost (for me, that's usually around May tenth).  It's time to start some of the middling varieties of seeds, mostly things that require 60-80 days to bloom from seeding.

I started the Cosmos, Texas Bluebonnet, giant Zinnia, and Easter Eggplant last week or this week.  I rounded out with some Dreamland Scarlet Zinnia, which don't require the time but won't be hurt by being a bit pot bound for a few weeks.

If you stagger sunflowers to have blooms through the season (usually done with shorter ones as the very tall sunflowers like Mammoth require a long growth period), starting the first ones now isn't a bad idea.  I usually plant three or four dwarf sunflowers, staggering planting every 2 weeks and finishing up with the last planted around April first.

Most shorter zinnia, marigolds, nasturtium, and petunia can wait a bit yet.  They don't require a great deal of time to bloom.