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Archives for May 8, 2017

Spring gardening tips: vegetables, fruits and trees


Mulching underneath tomato plants is ideal to prevent foliar diseases, which often begin by splashing up from the soil, where they are harbored. The choice of the mulch is worth some consideration. Organic mulches like straw, old leaves or shredded wood are good, but will suppress soil temperatures. This can aggravate root rots if the spring is cool and wet. An ideal alternative is use of landscape fabric or weed barrier. This black material will warm the soil and let moisture through.

When I teach classes on vegetable gardening, I like to say growing vegetables organically in Missouri is generally easy, if you don’t grow Cucurbits. The Cucurbit family includes cucumbers, squash (winter or summer), pumpkins and melons. They are plagued by three insect pests and several diseases. The two worst insect pests are cucumber beetles and squash bugs, for which there is a lack of effective organic insecticides available (permethrin is the best synthetic option). Treat at the first sign of cucumber beetles, otherwise it may transmit the deadly bacterial wilt disease, most problematic to cucumbers, cantaloupes and zucchini. There is no fungicide to control bacterial wilt. Retreat with insecticide whenever cucumber beetles or squash bugs are seen. To protect bees (which are needed for pollination) apply the insecticide in the evening. Including a spreader sticker improves the efficacy of the insecticide.



April is an ideal month to plant a potted tree, but May is OK as well. The selection at garden centers is optimum, and soil conditions are generally good. Preparing the soil a week or two in advance will benefit the soil condition at planting and make the act of planting go quicker. Remember to water weekly through the summer when rainfall is short. Establishing a mulch ring around the tree of 2-3 feet in diameter will conserve moisture and reduce watering demands.

Evergreen trees have had a tough time the last number of years in Missouri. Spruces were considered safe for Missouri in regards to foliar diseases but in recent years have struggled with rhizosphaera needlecast, and SNEED (Sudden Needle Drop of Spruce) with blue spruce the most susceptible. Both of these diseases and bagworms can be prevented with two foliar pesticide applications, the first toward the end of May and the second following in 2-3 weeks. The ideal growth stage for the first application is when the bud cap falls off the candles as it pushes. Two common broad spectrum fungicide remedies are chlorothalonil (e.g. Ortho Daconil) or a copper containing product. Effective insecticides are the active ingredients permethrin and spinosad. The fungicide and insecticide can be mixed together, with their effectiveness improved with the addition of a spreader sticker.



Thinning of peaches will benefit disease and insect control as well as increase fruit size. Perform this task when they are nickel to quarter sized, and this is generally about the end of April or early May. Apple thinning is needed when they flower strongly, followed by good fruit set. Thinning helps control a biennial bearing pattern, where strong fruit set suppresses flowering the following year. Thin to one apple per cluster, and as with peaches, it will improve fruit resistance to insect and disease problems.

Berry gardeners (especially blackberry, raspberry, blueberry and mulberry) need to be observant of potential damage from Spotted Wing Drosophila. This invasive fruit fly can lay eggs in the fruit a week or two before it ripens and then ripe fruit breaks down with maggots inside — yuk! I call it the “mushy berry syndrome.” Aggressive picking (upon ripening), sanitation and weekly treating with insecticides will bring the pest under control. Send me an email, and I will give you a link to a Lincoln University fact sheet on controlling this pest.

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Three autumn gardening tips

Sabrina Hahn shares her weekly to-do list for WA gardeners.

1. Put snail traps around cymbidiums to keep the snails away from juicy flowering stems. You can also use pet-friendly snail pellets inside snail houses, or copper banding around the pots.

2. Prune back biennial bedding begonias. Cut back to 4cm and give them a feed with a liquid fertiliser. Put snail beer traps around them to prevent new shoots being eaten.

3. Cut back geraniums and pelargoniums that have become leggy or diseased. Never use the cuttings of any diseased plant — bag and bin.

Big Red pelargonium.
Big Red pelargonium.Picture: Iain Gillespie

Did you know?

Argan oil is made from the seed of the argan tree that comes from Morocco. They are a popular tree for goats.

Do you have a gardening question for Sabrina?

Write to Habitat Ask Sabrina, GPO Box N1025, Perth WA 6843, or email Please include your full name and suburb.

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Garden Tips: New petunias – Tri

Many of you know that I am a big fan of the Wave line of petunias.

I have praised them enthusiastically ever since they first arrived on the market. The Waves were the first heat tolerant, vigorous petunias available that stood up to our local summer heat and kept blooming from spring to fall.

Since then, other lines of heat-soaking petunias have come on the market, rivaling my affection for the Waves. Every year I like to check out what’s new in the world of petunias, especially my beloved Wave petunias.

We can celebrate that there is now a great yellow-flowered addition to the Easy Wave series. The Easy Wave Yellow has a tidy mounded and spreading growth habit, growing up to 12 inches tall and 40 inches wide.

The Easy Waves have more controlled growth than the other series in the Wave family, making Easy Wave Yellow good for mixes in containers or alone in planters and hanging baskets.

Three other relative newcomers are Easy Wave Red Velour, Burgundy and Berry with velvety rich deep red, burgundy purple and lighter red flowers, respectively.

A few years after Wave petunias first became available, the Supertunias from Proven Winners (PW) arrived.

Supertunias are trailing petunias that originated in Australia. They also stand up well to summer weather, blooming profusely all season, but they are less aggressive than the earlier Wave series and do not tend to overwhelm other flowers in container gardens and hanging baskets.

Supertunias from Proven Winners (PW) are trailing petunias that originated in Australia. They also stand up well to summer weather, blooming profusely all season, but they are less aggressive than the earlier Wave series and do not tend to overwhelm other flowers in container gardens and hanging baskets.

They are also less likely to become leggy later in the season. Unlike Wave petunias that are propagated from seed, Supertunias are only propagated from cuttings. Along with being heat tolerant and weather resistant, they have diverse and delightfully unique flower colors.

The Supertunia being introduced by PW this year is Picasso in Purple, with distinctive star-shaped blooms in bright magenta with chartreuse green tips.

Like other Supertunias, it is tolerant of summer heat. It is more densely branched and has a more mounded habit than Pretty Much Picasso that was introduced several years ago. Mix Picasso in Purple with one of the chartreuse-leaved sweet potatoes and you will have an eye-catching combination.

While not new this year, the Supertunia Vista Bubblegum has been named the 2017 annual of the year. As you can deduce, the flowers of this heat and drought tolerant petunia are bubblegum pink.

The vigorous plants have a mounded trailing habit, growing up to 2 feet tall and 4 feet long. This vigorous Supertunia works best in large containers or in garden beds where they will provide an explosion of pink. If the plants become leggy in mid-summer, trim them back a bit.

Yet another wind, rain, and heat tolerant petunia is Surfinia, trademarked by Suntory.

They also are only propagated from cuttings. They generally reach a height of 5 to 7 inches and length of 4 feet. With their trailing habit they work well in hanging baskets and are the top selling petunias in Europe.

Surfinia Heartbeat is a unique new Surfinia available this year and being marketed by PW.

Heartbeat has a compact mounded habit, growing up to 12 inches tall and 18 inches wide. What is unique about Heartbeat is the novel white flowers featuring a pattern of five soft pink hearts.

I have not had as much luck with Surfinias as I have with Wave petunias and Supertunias, but I might just have give this adorable variety a try. Now it is time to go shopping to find these and other exciting new petunias for my container gardeners.

Marianne C. Ophardt is a retired horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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‘Swanleaf’ design pupils take leaf out of TV’s Adam Frost’s book for royal horticultural show

PUBLISHED: 12:41 07 May 2017 | UPDATED: 12:41 07 May 2017

Garden project at Swanlea school. Picture: SWANLEA

Garden project at Swanlea school. Picture: SWANLEA


Year 9 pupils calling themselves ‘Team Swanleaf’ entered the Horticultural Society’s Plan It competition for schools last term.

They came up with a garden design for the flower show, led by DT teacher Chris Nairn, which beat all the rival schools.

“This is a huge learning experience for our pupils,” Chris said. “They have to build their design from a scale model to full size over the next few weeks, as well as grow the plants for the project.

“It provides an opportunity for them and helps the school support ‘greener’ living.”

The Horticultural Society asked the Swanleaf team to build a ‘real life’ version of their winning design for the prestigious Hampton Court summer show.

BBC Gardeners’ World presenter Adam Frost, who is a Horticultural Society ‘ambassador’, is helping the pupils with ideas when he looks in at the school to give invaluable advice. He is a leading garden designer who has won several Chelsea gold medals.

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Rain gardens look beautiful and improve our lake


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The water feature: A timeless addition to your home or garden

How often do you close your eyes and just listen to the Gulf of Mexico or the flow of the Blackwater River? Do you listen to the rain and feel a calming effect?

Often ambient music and sound effects feature the sounds of water to precipitate a feeling of calm. In fact, according to, “The image of water is commonly used in meditation as a symbol of the infinite flow that moves through blockages and unlocks inner peace and healing.”

James Martin, owner of Gulfside Landscaping, notes that people are always drawn to water, and while not everyone can live on the water, being able to bring it to their location as a water feature makes it accessible to anyone.

Some of the earliest water features were created on practical, needed places like aqueducts, where ornate heads were placed at the spout. This gave way to metal fountains and eventually organic features such as water gardens and the pondless, stacked rock formations.

“When you connect the dots with landscaping, the smell of flowers and you incorporate another element with water, you’re appealing to the human senses. It’s the combination of water, fragrance, the sight and sound of the birds combined with the sight and sound of the water that creates a complete sensory experience for the garden and anyone walking through the garden,” says Martin.

MORE ON HOMES:Parade of Homes offers American dream

With water being a timeless element in our lives, it’s no wonder that a project of Martin’s, Timeless Tanglewood, owned by Fred Levin, includes four different types of water features.

Each home is different and while Martin notes that “the landscape and architectural style of the house or structure on the property dictates that type of water feature you’re going to have,” the fact is that any property can add even the simplest water feature and enjoy its calming effects.

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Marin garden calendar for the week of May 6, 2017


Gardening classes: The Mill Valley Public Library offers free seasonal gardening classes most Saturdays and occasionally on Sundays. Call 415-389-4292 or go to

Workshops and gardening classes: Armstrong Garden Centers in Novato and San Anselmo offer free classes to gardeners of all skill levels most Saturdays. Call 415-878-0493 (Novato), 415-453-2701 (San Anselmo) or go to

Workshops and seminars: Sloat Garden Center has five Marin County locations that offer gardening workshops and seminars on a weekly basis. Check for schedule, locations and cost.

Workshops and seminars: The Marin Master Gardeners present a variety of how-to workshops, seminars and special events throughout Marin County on a weekly basis. Check for schedule, locations and cost.

Workshops and seminars: Marin Rose Society presents monthly lectures on growing roses and good garden practices. Check for schedule and locations.

Seminars: The Marin Orchid Society presents lectures on raising orchids at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month at 215 Blackfield Drive, Tiburon. Call 415-895-0667.

Gardening volunteers: Marin Art Garden Center in Ross seeks volunteers for maintenance, weeding, transplanting and mulching. Call 415-455-5260.

Gardening volunteers: The Novato Independent Elders Program seeks seasonal volunteers to help Novato seniors with their overgrown yards Tuesday mornings or Thursday afternoons. Call 415-899-8296.

Nursery volunteers: Volunteers are sought to help in Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy nurseries from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays at Tennessee Valley, 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday; 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays, or 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays at Marin Headlands Nursery; or 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at Muir Beach, 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the Marin Headlands. Call 415-561-3077 or go to

Nursery days: The SPAWN (Salmon Protection and Watershed Network) native plant nursery days are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays and weekends. Call 415-663-8590, ext. 114, or email to register and for directions. Go to for more information.

Garden visits: Marin Master Gardeners and the Marin Municipal Water District offer free residential Bay-Friendly Garden Walks to MMWD customers. The year-round service helps homeowners identify water-saving opportunities and soil conservation techniques for their landscaping. Call 415-473-4204 to request a visit to your garden.

Garden volunteers: Marin Open Garden Project (MOGP) volunteers are available to help Marin residents glean excess fruit from their trees for donations to local organizations serving people in need and to build raised beds to start vegetable gardens through the MicroGardens program. MGOP also offers a garden tool lending library. Go to or email

Around the bay

Landscape garden: Cornerstone Gardens is a permanent, gallery-style garden featuring walk-through installations by international landscape designers on nine acres at 23570 Highway 121 in Sonoma. Free. Call 707-933-3010 or go to

Olive ranch: McEvoy Ranch at 5935 Red Hill Road in Petaluma offers tours, workshops and special events. Call 707-769-4123 or go to

Botanical garden: Quarryhill Botanical Garden at 12841 Sonoma Highway in Glen Ellen covers 61 acres and showcases a large selection of scientifically documented wild source temperate Asian plants. The garden is open for self-guided tours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. $5 to $10. Call 707-996-3166 or go to

— Compiled by Colleen Bidwill

The Trowel Glove Calendar appears Saturdays. Send high-resolution jpg photo attachments and details about your event to or mail to Home and Garden Calendar/Lifestyles, Marin Independent Journal, 4000 Civic Center Drive, Suite 301, San Rafael, CA 94903. Items should be sent two weeks in advance. Photos should be a minimum of 2 megabytes and include caption information. Include a daytime phone number on your release.

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Valley in Brief: State group honors local landscape firm Raindrops on Roses

VAIL — Summit County-based landscape company Raindrops on Roses — a firm with clients in the Vail Valley — was recently recognized by Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado at the 2017 ELITE Awards in the category Use of Color, for a project titled “Sweet Creek.”

Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado’s ELITE Awards honors outstanding landscapes within the profession and projects that reflect the values of sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Raindrops on Roses is one of several professional landscape firms in the trade organization’s Mountain Chapter — which faces more challenges than landscape professionals at lower elevations. High country environments have a shorter growing season, a smaller selection of plants from which to choose and must also contend with a harsher climate and more wildlife than their colleagues at lower elevations.

“For more than a decade we have specialized in the design, installation and maintenance of high-altitude perennial gardens,” Raindrops on Roses owner Juliana Maes said. “The intense interaction our staff has with plants during the growing season gives us insight on perennials that not only grow, but thrive in high-altitude gardens.”

According to Maes, her Sweet Creek clients requested a landscape that would provide a welcoming entry, serve as a stunning backdrop for summer outdoor living and entertaining and flourish at high altitude.

For more information, go to or

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