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Archives for June 15, 2017

Smart Gardening 101 Part 3: Smart Plants – Petoskey News

Smart Gardening is a Michigan State University Extension initiative with the goal of cultivating better gardeners. The initiative aims to provide both novice and experienced gardeners with information and techniques that will save time, money and the environment. The Smart Gardening philosophy covers five specific areas: Smart Lawns, Smart Soil, Smart Plants, Smart Vegetables and Smart Pollinators. Today, we look at our plants.

Smart Plants

Adopting this philosophy in your home garden begins with selecting the right plants for your site, soil and light conditions. A smart gardener:

• Chooses plants that require a minimum of water, fertilizer and pest control

• Groups plants together that have similar needs

• Spreads mulch around plants, particularly new additions, to help conserve moisture for the newly developing roots

Choosing native plants is a smart choice for Michigan landscapes. Native plants are well suited for our climate and soil conditions which will save water, money and time.

Applying IPM principles to your lawn, garden and landscape is yet another hallmark of Smart Gardening. IPM, or Integrated Pest Management, uses a common-sense approach to managing pests and optimizing plant health. According to the Michigan State University Extension website, while IPM takes advantage of all appropriate pest management options including judicious use of pesticides, by incorporating a variety of methods it is possible to reduce or eliminate pesticide applications while still addressing garden problems. Smart gardeners use IPM to protect human health and the environment by making environmentally-friendly pest management choices.

Incorporating IPM begins with identifying pests and understanding their life cycles. Gardeners know very few insects are really pests at all, and that most insects are beneficial and do no harm. Smart gardeners are constantly on the lookout for pests and weigh controlling the damage with establishing a tolerance for pests and pest damage.

Other Smart Gardening tips include implementing good sanitation practices by keeping tools and equipment clean and disinfected, managing diseases with prevention rather than treatment, removing crop residue at the end of the growing season, rotating crops, planting cover crops, using drip irrigation or soaker hoses instead of overhead watering, and using organic mulches.

Babette Stenuis Stolz is an Advanced Master Gardener, member of the Northern Michigan Master Gardener Association, Emmet County Chapter, an Extension Master Gardener Smart Gardening Volunteer and member of the Michigan Master Gardener Association.

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Easy DIY tips for gardening in spring

Easy tips to tidy the garden during spring.

Spring is the time to get outdoors and freshen up the garden with new plantings and completing a few maintenance jobs. Photo: File

WITH the weather warming up now is the time to start pottering outdoors to complete a few easy jobs that will have your garden looking in tip-top shape throughout spring and into summer.

A must-do job, says Bunnings national garden care buyer David Hardie is removing the weeds from garden beds and the lawn. This will help plants recover from winter and get the garden back into shape during spring to encourage healthy growth and a strong planting season, Hardie says. Here’s Hardie’s top tips on how to keep the garden looking fresh in spring.

  • Encourage kids to start a compost bin in the garden to recycle organic garden and kitchen waste into a highly nutritious soil conditioner.
  • Remove new and emerging weeds from the garden by hand or with a hoe. Target stronger weeds with herbicide treatments that won’t damage flowers and plants.
  • Prune fruit trees in early spring before new fruit develops to encourage healthy growth and make it easier to harvest produce. Pruning trees will also help minimise pests and diseases.
  • Prepare the soil and plant seeds in early spring to allow them to grow to maturity as early as possible. Fertilise the seeds to give them plenty of food for growth.
  • Give new life to garden tools by cleaning them with disinfectant or investing in new tools to last the season.
  • Spring is an ideal time to plant vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers to ensure a bountiful crop for your summer salads.
  • Maintaining the lawn in spring will allow it to grow lush and green come summer. Aerate the soil to allow the lawn to breathe. Tackle weeds early and sprinkle fertiliser over the soil to ensure a strong lawn is grown.
  • Repot container-grown plants that have outgrown their current pot. Place them into larger pots with fresh potting mix or trim the roots of the plant and replant them into their existing pot with fresh potting mix.
  • Maintain water features and clean out accumulated rubbish and leaves that may have built up over winter. Re-pot water plants before returning them to ponds to give them a healthy new environment.

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Create your own rock garden at home

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Expert Gardeners Share Tips on Growing a Successful Vegetable …

The Rutgers Master Gardeners of Union County are on a mission to help gardens flourish all over Union County, and this summer they are offering a free Vegetable Garden Series of classes and garden tours available to all gardeners from beginner to expert. The series is held in the Union County Demonstration Garden.

The Demonstration Garden, located in Union County’s Watchung Reservation by the Trailside Nature and Science Center in Mountainside, is the centerpiece of the Master Gardeners’ many community service programs.

“The Master Gardeners are one of the most active volunteer organizations in Union County, and they have touched the lives of many Union County residents with their willingness to share their expertise and time,” said Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen. “The Freeholder Board is very proud to support their efforts.”

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The first class and tour of the Vegetable Gardening Series will be on Thursday, June 22 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.  The program includes a class titled “Starting a Vegetable Garden” along with a tour of the Sharing Garden beds at the Demonstration Garden.

The Sharing Garden features 24 raised beds of vegetables commonly grown in home yards and community gardens.  All produce from the garden is donated to local food pantries.   The class will cover site selection, planting tips, maintenance and budgeting aimed at smoothing the path to a successful vegetable garden. 

Other topics and dates in the series are:

Tuesday, July 25: Keeping Pests Out of the Garden — Insect and Disease Management

Wednesday, August 9: Harvesting and Food Safety in the Vegetable Garden

Thursday, September 7: Keys to Successful Composting

All programs include a tour of the Sharing Garden that relates to the topic of the evening’s class.

The program is free but pre-registration is required at

Free parking is available in the Trailside Nature and Science Center parking lot, located at 452 New Providence Road in Mountainside. 

The Master Gardeners of Union County is a volunteer community service organization run by the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County and supported in part by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

For more information about the Vegetable Garden Series, or to find out how to join the Master Gardeners, call the Extension at 908-654-9854, option 4. The Extension offices are located in the Colleen Fraser County Services building in Westfield, at 300 North Avenue East.

For more details about the Demonstration Garden and other Master Gardeners program visit

Links to Master Tree Stewards, 4-H youth clubs and all other Extension programs are available at

The Rutgers Cooperative Extension is an equal opportunity program provider and employer. Contact your local Extension Office for information regarding special needs or accommodations. Contact the State Extension Director’s Office if you have concerns related to discrimination, 848-932-3584.

For all Union County programs and services visit, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email or use the online Contact Form.

Connect with Union County on social media.

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Work backwards to take care of your lawn and garden during hot summer months

Our long hot dry summers really take a toll on our plants and lawns. Many gardeners in the Central Valley made significant changes to their landscapes during the last four severe drought years, taking out thirsty lawns and planting non-native and heat and drought-tolerant plants. Ours is a desert-type climate but we’re still creating English cottage gardens and planting tropical and semi-tropical plants surrounded by lush green lawns that really suffer in the summer heat.


In other milder climate zones, summer fertilization is key to maintaining the health and vigor of plants and lawn grasses. That’s a problem for us. Daytime and nighttime temperatures during July and August are so high in the Central Valley that most non-native plants or those that are not heat and drought-tolerant go into survival mode. They become semi-dormant, slowing and even stopping growth and flower production, to conserve energy.

It seems contrary to common sense to slow or stop fertilizing the roses and the fescue lawns in our gardens during the hottest months, but that’s exactly what we need to do.

Here are a few guidelines for changing fertilizer types and reducing fertilizer application amounts and timing in July and August.

Lawns – Warm-season lawns including bermuda grasses thrive in heat but even they will slow growth in summer. They can safely be fed monthly in July and August at half the recommended rate.

Cool-season lawns like fescue are naturally dormant in summer and winter and need need no fertilization during the next two months.

Newer lawn food formulations have reduced nitrogen amounts (usually somewhere between 9 percent and 29 percent) and have added iron to help keep grasses green. Since nitrogen forces rapid new green growth, these lower-nitrogen fertilizers would be a good alternative to apply to less actively-growing Bermuda lawns in summer and to fescue or cool-season lawns in fall and spring.

Roses, flowering annuals and perennials – Most flowering perennials stop producing new buds and leaves in our summer heat. Petals are thin and papery, colors are faded and fragrance is much less intense. Adjust amounts to plant size and dig in a tablespoon per petunia plant or a half cup per rose bush of a good quality compost instead of a commercially-formulated fertilizer. Compost has much lower percentages of nitrogen (1 to 3 percent on average) but is chock-full of micro-nutrients and beneficial fungi that attach to roots, increasing the plants’ ability to draw up water and nutrients.

Summer vegetables, fruit and nut trees – Heat also slows flower production in the vegetable garden and causes flower drop. On really hot days, bees and other pollinators try to stay cool rather than forage for pollen and nectar. Discontinue fertilization of summer vegetables and instead apply a half cup of compost per plant monthly during the hottest weather.

Fruit and nut trees should be fed once with a higher-nitrogen fertilizer after harvest. Wait to feed until temperatures begin to cool in mid-August or apply the same lower nitrogen lawn food you’ve been feeding your Bermuda grass.

Send Elinor Teague plant questions at

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