Sunday, 22 June 2014

Common Problems and Simple Solutions

I look back on other June blog posts and am amazed at how different it can be from one year to the next..

That said, however, some of the issues from year to year and month to month, are about the same...
Here are some common issues we see at this time of year and how to deal with them ...

Most common problem ... or problem # 1

I have had many people talk to me about this.. it can be your annual bedding plants, your veggie transplants, your roses or your one gallon fruiting shrubs... and ornamental ones, too.

The foliage is looking kind of limey green instead of a healthy dark green ... (tomato, cucumber, squash, pepper, flower, shrub, etc.. )

Caused by - Most often this is simply due to the fact that the plant has been living in a wee small pot and is no longer able to get enough nutrients from that wee amount of soil.
Annuals in 6-packs needing a home, tomatoes waiting a few weeks for warm weather before they get into the garden bed, root bound blueberries or grapes, or lilacs, etc... there is nothing wrong with these plants per se, they simply need more nutrients.

Remedy - They will begin to perk up almost immediately when you plant them into the ground or into a larger pot. You can try to fertilise the heck outta them, but is way better to re-pot them into a larger pot with fresh potting soil or plant them out.

Garden... If planting into the ground, make sure that you have amended your soil and have rich loam. If not, add some manure or compost to the planting hole. The foliage will slowly start to green up and you will soon not even remember that you were concerned about them.

Pots ... If planting into pots, add manure or compost to the potting mix. I use a  two to five ratio, adding 2 scoops of manure to every 5 scoops of soil-less potting mix.

Throw on a handful of Epsom salts on top of the soil whether planting into the garden or the pot. Epsom salts will help prevent blossom end rot on veggies, plus add magnesium and micro nutrients to your soil and help to green up your foliage. Highly recommended for roses, tomatoes, and peppers, but works for most all plants.

If you have any purple veining on your tomatoes, add a handful of bonemeal on top or mix a few handfuls in with the potting soil when potting it up. 

 In no time at all, your foliage will be lush and deep green again.

Problem #2

This is another common concern when you are picking up veggie transplants, annuals, perennials, etc..

The bottom leaves on your tomato (pepper, cuke, squash, etc...) are yellowing or browning off or spotty and ugly...

Caused by ...  The bottom foliage is the oldest foliage, those leaves have been on the plant for a very long time.. With the cucumber and squash plants it is usually the two 'first' leaves but may also be the first 'true' leaf that is yellowing in the pot, while on the tomato it may be the bottom two or three leaves. This is not a cause for alarm but is, in fact, commonplace.

Remedy - Pinch them off. Leaves get old, take them off.
Bedding plants, roses, veggies, everything will get old leaves or ugly leaves, to prevent issues and to make the plant look and feel better, simply pinch off the yellow leaves.The plant will stop putting energy into that old foliage and will benefit from it's removal.

Problem #3 

I don't have any great picture of tired looking garden beds, flower beds or baskets, at this time.. this is simply because I have brand new garden beds and no flower beds here at the new place this year! ; ) 

Potted roses or potted perennials looking kind of peaked and tired? Gardens and flower beds not quite performing the way they used to? 

Caused by .. Some of the nutrients in the soil are running a bit low and they are looking to you for a bit of a pick me up.

Remedy - Top dress around them with a few handfuls of manure ( I like chicken manure best, but use whatever you have! ). As you water, the nutrients will slowly be released to the roots system and your foliage will be greener, fuller and you will get more blooms. you can do this with everything and anything. Top dress between the rows of veggies in your garden beds, around the roses and flowers in your flower beds, and on top of large planters or pots that do not get re-potted and nourished annually. Yes, you can do this right on top of your bark nuggets, the manure will work it's way through.

Add a wee bit of bloodmeal, bonemeal, Epsom salts, or organic granular fertiliser in with the manure, if you feel that they need a bit more nutrients.
Organic gardeners may want to do this once a month to keep their planters and pots looking good and performing well.

Problem #4

Hanging baskets or annual planters are not flowering as much any more...or simply do not look as good as they used to.  

Caused by .. A few reasons for this are possible... These guys are heavy feeders and need constant feeding in order to keep blooming for you all summer long, and they need near daily watering in order to continue to perform. Plus, some may be a bit lanky and overgrown with faded blooms.  

Remedy ..  Sprinkle some slow release fertiliser on top of the soil for the times that you forget to feed or go away on holidays. Plus!... Feed with a water soluble fertiliser once a week ... or, add a pinch of food to the watering can each time you water.
If you feel that the basket has dried out and is not retaining water well, pop it into a bucket of water for a few hours to re-hydrate the soil and the plants. It will perk up noticeably. When you water, make sure that you water in centre and around all the sides till the water is running down from the bottom of the planter. If the water runs from the bottom almost right away, that is a sure sign that it has dried out and is not retaining any of the water that you are now giving it. This is the time to do the bucket plunge!
I always double water my pots, planters and baskets...I go over them all, watering well till the water drips out the bottom... then I go through with a second round of watering about 5 or 10 minutes later. This ensures that the first round of water has had time to penetrate any dry areas of the potting mix and it is now able to take on and soak up more water. 

Pinch, pinch, dead head and then pinch some more. Most all annuals will benefit from regular dead-heading and pinching to keep them bushy, lush and blooming. Remove any spent blooms and pinch back any lanky or not blooming stems to where you see some branching out. In no time at all, you will have a thick, lush and heavily blooming basket/planter.

Problem #5

Holy smokes, what a lot of bugs this year!

Bugs! Aphids on your roses, loopers on your cabbages, something eating your leaves...

Caused by... Well, hmmm ... Mother Nature. Life. 

Remedy... Vigilance. Do a walk through once a day, if you can, or every few days. Look at your foliage, smell your flowers and while you do, look for bugs, twisting leaves, holey foliage, etc..anything that does not look quite right.
Do a morning walk through before work, with your cup of coffee, or after work, while you harvest some herbs and veggies for dinner... or after dinner, with a glass of wine, as you unwind for the day...

Deal with any issues that you see right away. If you have aphid damage as in the picture above, hose off your plants with a strong jet of water and spray with an insecticidal soap once a week for 2 to 3 weeks in a row. However, if you see lady bugs already working on your aphid problem, help by squishing the aphids, but do not spray the plants or you will also kill off your lady bugs.

If you have caterpillars, pluck off and stomp or squish. 

... and finally, Problem #6

Fungal issues prevail as soon as soon as weather happens...

 Yikes! Fungal issues already! Black spot on roses and powdery mildew on currants...

Caused by....    The right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) weather conditions, overhead watering, heavy dew in mornings, and some plants are simply prone to these issues.

Prevention ...   Water in the morning, do not water in the evening so that plants go into the evening/night with wet foliage.
Water at ground level, try not get splash back on the foliage, and do not water the foliage, especially in the evenings.
Ensure that plants prone to issues have good air flow around them, do not crowd them in for that 'cottage garden' look. 

Remedy ... Pick off any leaves with black spot. The sprays that you hear about, whether home made or store bought, will not fix the foliage with black spot on it, though may help to prevent more from coming on. Remove the affected foliage and let the rose leaf out again. Increase the air flow around the plants with issues.
For powdery mildew, if it is just a few leaves, pull them off and discard. If it is a bit more, spray with a 10% skim milk solution (9 parts water to 1 part skim milk in a spray bottle) every 3 days or so, 3 or 4 times. If you still have an issue, pull of the worst leaves and spray the others again. Currant shrubs are very prone to powdery mildew, I have often de-nuded them completely and let them leaf out all over again. Ensure great air flow by removing any tall weeds or grass, flowers, and, if need be, move other shrubs that are too close for comfort. If your cukes and zukes get powdery mildew, you can try the milk spray but I find it is not so effective on the hairy foliage. Remove any really bad leaves and pray that the plant says healthy enough for long enough to harvest your veggies.
Good air flow is the key to keeping peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, and everything in between, happy and healthy.

In summary, the best thing to do for happy and healthy plants is to water, feed and pinch! Pinch off anything that does not look good or right.     

May Garden Ramblings

Well, here we are, it is finally the month of May... the busiest planting month of the year. This is when everything happens! We will a...