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Gardening Tips: July 15, 2017

Earl May Yard and Garden Expert Mark Thoms says Central Iowa is getting hit hard by Japanese Beetles this month. He has some tips on how to get rid of them. Rabbits continue to be a problem in people’s yards, so he shares some helpful ways to keep them away.

Submit your yard and garden questions by clicking here. We will answer them on a future Saturday.

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Tips for taking better photos of your garden and wildlife | Lifestyles …

So the garden you planted or enjoy each day is flowering. Birds and animals are busy in your yard or neighborhood. And you’d love to capture all this natural beauty in photos.

It’s so easy these days to pull out a phone and take pictures of anything anytime, but a little time and thought can produce better garden and wildlife photos.

“There’s a big difference between that for-the-record shot that preserves a memory and getting a really nice image,” says Brenda Tharp, author of the new book “Expressive Nature Photography.”

Pause before pressing the shutter, she says, and consider: Is the light right? Can you give your photo a unique point of view by shooting from different angles and levels, moving to the side, crouching or standing on something?

Try to identify what it is about the subject matter that “stopped you in your tracks,” she says. “It’s really about narrowing down your purpose in making that picture.”

Some tips from Tharp and other nature photographers

The rule of thirds

Resist the temptation to center the subject, suggests Rob Simpson, an instructor in nature photography at Lord Fairfax College in Middletown, Va. Think of your photo as a tic-tac-toe board, and place the subject in one of the off-center thirds of the space. “It’s going to make the photo more pleasing to the eye,” he said. “It gives it balance.”

Texture is terrific

One of the most exciting things about photographing flowers and leaves is capturing something that passers-by won’t see — their textures up-close, says Patty Hankins, a floral photographer in Bethesda, Md., who sells her work and offers photography tips at A camera’s “macro” setting lets you take an extreme close-up and keep it in focus. “It shows you all these incredible things that people who aren’t stopping to look won’t see,” she says. “It’s about filling the frame with small details.”

Staying still

When using the macro setting, keep the camera as still as possible, Hankins says. “If you’re taking a picture of the Grand Canyon and your hand shakes a little, people aren’t likely to notice,” she said. “But if you’re taking a photo of the center of a sunflower, they’re much more likely to see it.” A tripod can help. Look for one that is lightweight and can get low to ground, she says. If you don’t own a tripod, find somewhere solid to place the camera or set it on a bean bag or bag of rice on the ground, and use the timer to take the photo.

Practice perimeter patrol

Before you shoot, scan the edges of your picture for buildings, outdoor furniture or other things that could distract from your subject.

Light matters

Often, outdoor photos come out better on cloudy days or when the sun is not directly overhead, Simpson says. The soft light that comes through on an overcast day will not cast harsh shadows, and may result in a more even exposure and better details. For landscape photos, however, sunlight can add drama. Consider shooting in the warm light found in early morning or late afternoon when the angle of the sun is low.

Think 3-D

Having items in a picture’s foreground and background helps put the viewer in the photo and creates a sense of depth, Tharp says. When taking a photo of a meadow or landscape, include objects closer to the camera as well. Another way to create dimension is to angle the camera downward a bit, emphasizing the foreground and creating that near-far relationship.

Animal action

The best animal photos reveal the subject’s behavior or personality, Tharp says. Take time to observe the animals and wait for the best shot. But be ready to capture the action when it happens. Simpson recommends a fast shutter speed to avoid missing the shot.

Shutter selections and apertures

Becoming a better photographer will mean understanding shutter speeds and apertures, Tharp said. The right shutter speed can mean the difference between freezing the motion of a moving animal or ending up with a blur. When photographing something in motion — an animal, bird or waterfall — give precedence to shutter speed over aperture, which is the amount of light being allowed into the lens. If controlling the sharpness of the background is the goal, prioritize aperture, because it defines the depth of what will be in focus, she said.

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Tips for taking better photos of your garden and wildlife

In this July 11, 2017 photo, the texture of this small cactus growing in a garden in Dallas, Texas, can be seen at close range. When taking photos in your garden, of your landscaping or in the natural world, elements like shutter speed, light, composition and lens choice can all work together to help capture all the natural beauty you observe with your eye. (AP Photo/Benny Snyder)

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5 garden tips for the week starting July 15 – The Pasadena Star

Fruit strategies

Apricots, plums, peaches, nectarines, grapes and other summer fruits ripen fast in the heat. Check them every other day or so and harvest as they mature. Since they spoil quickly in hot weather, plan to do some canning, drying, freezing or juicing. It may be unpleasant work now, but the effort sure pays off when you open and enjoy it this winter.

Orchid options

Remember to water cymbidium orchids regularly and feed them lightly with liquid fertilizer each time you water. Use a high-nitrogen fertilizer from early spring until the end of June. After that — from July until early October — feed them with a low-nitrogen, high-phosphorus formula. Be sure they get a good amount of bright sunlight, lightly filtered in the heat of the day, to ensure great blooming next season.

Carrots do summer too

You may plant carrots now even though they are generally considered to be a cool-weather crop, because each individual carrot takes three months or more to develop. And it will be cool by that time. Actually carrots may be planted year-round. The same is true with radishes, except they mature in only a few weeks.

Harvest time

Harvest green beans every two or three days to keep more beans coming along. Without continual harvesting, plants think their mission is accomplished as seeds mature, and they stop trying to make more. Also, periodic feeding with a 5-10-10 formula plant food and regular watering will help to guarantee a continuing high-quality harvest. During the high-sunlight, high-warmth days of summer, plants grow rapidly and sometimes we forget that they need an ample supply of soil nutrients for optimal growth.

Made in the shade

If your house is too hot in summer, shade trees can lower the temperature by 20 degrees or more. Planting on the south and east sides of the house help to retain morning coolness. Tall trees that grow on the south and west sides of a house prevent the heat of mid-afternoon from becoming overwhelming. Shade trees are not only aesthetically pleasing, but having them strategically located around your property will also reduce energy consumption — and costs.

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This week’s gardening tips: plant pumpkins now for fall Jack-o-Lanterns


This week’s gardening tips: Plant pumpkin seeds this month for Halloween pumpkins: The squash vine borer can be destructive to pumpkins and squash planted at this time of the year. The borer is a grub-like caterpillar that burrows into the stem and eats it out, causing the plant to wilt and die. If you have had major problems in the past, treat plants regularly with Sevin, BT or spinosad to control.

Numerous bedding plants may look a little stressed now: Impatiens, begonias, salvias and geraniums can be struggling. Blame the heat, both day and night. Many bedding plants (especially the tender perennials we grow as annuals) can be cut back in late July or early August. They will revive as the weather cools and provide color until November or longer.

Do not place container plants directly onto wooden decks: The moisture underneath can damage the wood. (Saucers do the same thing.) Boost pots off of the surface an inch or two with pieces of brick or terra-cotta pot supports (called “pot feet”) available at some local nurseries and garden shops. The pot feet may help the drainage holes to function better and can prevent dark stains under pots on concrete.

Keep peppers and eggplants in vigorous growth: Even if not producing well now, peppers and eggplants planted in spring will revive and produce well in the fall if the plants are growing. Sidedress them every six weeks, and you will be amazed at how productive they can be in September, October and early November.

Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter.

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MPCA’s yard and garden tips: There are many benefits to a healthy lawn

From left: Plantain may indicate the soil is compacted or poorly drained. Creeping Charlie may indicate the site is too shady or the soil is poorly drained. Dandelions may indicate that the grass is too thin. Moss may indicate that the site is too shady or too wet for grass to survive. Source: MPCA.
From left: Plantain may indicate the soil is compacted or poorly drained. Creeping Charlie may indicate the site is too shady or the soil is poorly drained. Dandelions may indicate that the grass is too thin. Moss may indicate that the site is too shady or too wet for grass to survive. Source: MPCA.
For many of us Minnesotans, summer means getting out in the yard and garden. Here are a few tips to help give your lawn and garden an environmentally friendly boost this year.

From watering and mowing to applying fertilizers and pesticides, our lawns can have a big impact on Minnesota’s water and air quality. Healthy lawns require fewer chemical applications, hold the soil in place, and withstand drought better than unhealthy lawns. Here are the top things you can do to keep your lawn happy this summer:

Reduce the need for pesticides. Pesticides— including herbicides, insecticides and fungicides—can be poisonous and pose a danger to animals and people, especially children and pets. Weeds often grow where grass is thin and weak. The best control of these plants is to figure out why the area is stressed or disturbed and fix the underlying cause.

Test your soil. Find out what kind of fertilizer, if any, your soil needs. Fertilizing can reduce the need for other chemicals and reduce soil erosion. Soil tests can be ordered through the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory. Your soil results will tell you which fertilizer you need, how much to apply, and how frequently to use it. But wait a little longer. Late summer through early fall is the best time of year to fertilize.

Leave the grass longer. Mow your grass to a height of 3-inches. By keeping your grass a little longer, the roots grow deeper and can reach more water during dry periods. Longer grass also helps shade the soil surface, making it harder for weeds to get established.

Leave your grass clippings on the lawn. Grass clippings can provide the equivalent of about one application of fertilizer per year. However, be sure to sweep up your sidewalk, driveway or street so clippings don’t pollute nearby lakes or streams.

Wait before you water. In Minnesota, most grass can survive without watering, although it may enter a dormant “brown” stage during the summer. Water only when it hasn’t rained for at least seven days. You don’t need to water on a routine basis. To get the most water to the plant and reduce evaporation:

• Water early in the morning. Grass blades
need to dry out to minimize disease.
• Water close to the ground.
• Water slowly, deeply and less frequently.
Root growth is influenced by water
depth and time of the year. Frequent
shallow watering that keeps surface soils
wet encourages shallow root growth,
greater proneness to certain diseases,

and reduced stress tolerance.
• Only water grass. Make sure water is
not lost by landing on or running off the
grass onto hard, impervious surfaces.

Aerate grass if the soil is compacted. Aeration lets water soak in and increases air in the soil. Deeper, stronger roots, combined with increased soil water-holding capacity will decrease the need for frequent watering. Core aeration is the best method, and autumn is the best time to aerate. Hardware and equipment-rental stores rent aerators or you can hire a professional.

Grow native plants. Turf grass is not native to Minnesota and requires more care and attention than native plants. If you do not use your lawn regularly, or have areas where grass does not grow well, consider native plants that do not require fertilizer or watering. Resources and plant lists are available through Blue Thumb (


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Midsummer gardening tips





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6 tips to remedy a flooded yard or garden – Chicago Tribune

Extended periods of strong rain over the last several days have forced parts of Chicagoland into flood recovery mode.

Those living in flood zones are likely prioritizing home repair — removing wet carpet and bleaching basements — but when time allows, yards need some TLC, too.

Heavy rain can wreak havoc on plants, but these simple steps go a long way in helping your greenery recover. Here’s where to start:

1. Don’t panic. Wait and see. Give the soil plenty of time to dry out.

5 garden tips for the week starting July 8

Clippers at the ready

Keep geraniums and other flowering plants blooming throughout the summer and longer by deadheading (removing faded blossoms). Most summer annuals, perennials and roses will bloom more if old blossoms are removed as soon as they fade. And an additional dose of plant food will also boost blooming.

Harvest, then prune

Here’s the best way to keep your deciduous fruit trees low and productive: prune them as soon as you harvest the fruit. Top the tree at any height that works for you — about eight feet is practical. Remove strong, upright sprouts, but allow plenty of leaves to remain, because they will feed new branches that emerge in the next several weeks. And these late-summer/autumn branches will produce the bulk of next year’s crop — at a height that is easier to reach.

Skim milk beats mildew

If the foliage on your squashes, roses, crape myrtles and other plants develops powdery mildew, remember that the simple skim milk formula really does keep mildew away. Weekly spraying of foliage with a mixture of one part skim milk and nine parts water is a safe and inexpensive way to get the upper hand on this distressing disease. You could also use sulfur dusts or weekly sprays of products containing triforine in accordance with package directions, but the fat-free milk formula is less expensive, easier to find, and truly does an excellent job. Whatever you use, drench the plants thoroughly, on both sides of all the leaves, and stop spraying by mid-August or when the plant reaches peak bloom.

Smart idea for hollyhocks

Here is a way to work some fun magic with hollyhocks, which usually finish their annual flush of flowers by mid-summer. Cut back the flower stalks just above the ground. Then water and feed the plants right away, and continue watering regularly. This usually causes new flower stalks to develop, and the plants will actually produce a second flush of hollyhock blooms this autumn.

Here’s a good start

To start new plants from a favorite tomato, geranium, rose, lilac or almost any perennial, make a cut halfway through the underside of a long, low-growing stem, dust the cut with rooting hormone (such as Rootone), then bury it 6 to 12 inches deep. Allow 4-8 inches of the leafy end (beyond the cut) to stick out and continue growing. During the summer and fall many types of plants will form roots along the cut. Newly rooted plants can be severed from the parent and transplanted — in a month or two for soft-stemmed types, four to six months for others.

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Summertime weeds and how to control and get rid of them

Most of the summertime weeds we spend so much time trying to control in the Central Valley are well-adapted to heat, dry conditions and poor soil. Spotted and prostrate spurges, purslane and dandelions can survive quite nicely with little water in hardpacked soil and intense heat. This summer, though, we’re seeing a proliferation of weed types that require damp soil. Dallis grass, white clover, English daisy and yellow wood sorrel are far more prevalent than in other years.


There are two reasons for the increase in weeds that thrive in wet soil. During the last four severe drought years with mandated watering restrictions, all weeds produced larger amounts of seeds; many of those seeds did not germinate but remained viable on the dry soil surface during the drought (a survival mechanism). Above-average rainfall last winter followed by a wetter, cooler spring fostered the germination of those dormant weed seeds in the big bare spots in our formerly brown dead lawns. Also, a lot of homeowners who longed to see lush green grasses around their homes have begun to increase watering times or even ignore the mandated watering schedules and are now overwatering their lawns.

With warnings now about the possible carcinogenic effects of glyphosate (the active ingredient in many post-emergent herbicides including Roundup), we should reconsider discontinuing or modifying our chemically-based weed control programs. Here are the labor-intensive, not as thorough, but environmentally safer controls for the new weeds on the block:

Dallis grass – It forms fairly large clumps in low, wet areas. The grass blades are coarse, dark green and stand almost upright. Use a spading fork or spade to dig up clumps and all the rhizomes (root structure), replace and level soil, and mulch bare spots heavily until reseeding the lawn in fall.

white clover

White clover – This used to be included in grass seed mixes. It goes dormant during drought, creating bare spots which have now filled in with clover. White clover is extremely hard to eradicate since it spreads by aggressively-growing, above- and below-ground stems.

If you’re worried about bee stings on paws and bare feet, try painting the plants with a post-emergent herbicide.

english daisy

English daisy – I like seeing the white daisy flowers in a lawn, but many lawn purists don’t. Dig out the fleshy roots in spring and adjust irrigation sprinklers and timers to keep the lawn on the dry side. Don’t overirrigate.


Yellow wood sorrel – The bright yellow flowers of wood sorrel, also called oxalis, stood high and tall in many uncultivated areas this spring. If oxalis is not mowed or pulled in spring before seed pods form, the dry pods will shoot seeds into the neighbors’ yards when touched.

Look for the bronzy/green clover-like leaves and dig or pull the plants out. A vigorously-growing lawn will outcompete oxalis.

Send Elinor Teague plant questions at

Weed help

For help identifying the weeds in your lawn, check the University of California’s Weed Photo Gallery: It’s important to know exactly which weeds you have before buying and applying preemergent herbicides next fall or spring to prevent weed seeds from germinating.

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