- Release lady beetles at dusk or early evening. Lady beetles will fly away almost immediately if released during the heat of the day or where the sun is shining, so wait until evening to release them. Spray a fine mist of water on the plants before the release. Giving beetles a drink may keep them around longer. Place beetles at the base of plants or in the crotches of low branches. Lady beetles will crawl higher into the plant in search of aphids. Once lady beetles begin to fly, they are likely to fly a substantial distance, often outside the boundaries of your garden. Do not release lady beetles on plants that have been sprayed with insecticides as residues from most insecticides are likely to kill the beetles. However, insecticidal soaps and oils, once dry, will not leave toxic residues.
- They need a good supply of aphids. There is no point in releasing them on plants with few aphids. Lady beetles are voracious aphid feeders and an adult beetle will eat 50 or more aphids a day. The convergent lady beetle, which is the species sold for release, feeds almost entirely on aphids and will not remain on plants with low aphid populations and will not control other garden pests.
- Expect lady beetles to fly away in a few days. Even when released with care, lady beetles will fly away within a few days. Lady beetles are unlikely to lay eggs on the plants they are released on. If aphids return a week or two later, gardeners will need to release more lady beetles to help increase the local population.
Lady Beetle Care
As our garden awakens, so do we in a way, by embracing the warmth and sunshine that spring brings to us all. Turn off the TV, put down your phone, stop watching the news and get outside and work in the garden. There are a lot of things that can be done now, and then again in early May to achieve the garden of your dreams. While you work and create outdoors, take advantage of the fresh air and embrace your yards energy. Here are some gardening tips for now, some for later, plus a blooming by the seasons guide.
Winter & Spring Blooming Bulbs (Feb-April)- Crocus, Daffodils, Hyacinths, Iris, Snowdrops, Tulips.
Cool Season Annuals (Sept-May)- Calendula, Pansies & Violets (johnnie jump-ups), Primroses, Snapdragons
Spring Blooming Shrubs & Trees- Flowering Ornamental: Cherries, Plums & Crabapples, Dogwoods, Lilacs, Weigela, Azaleas & Rhododendrons, Mountain Laurel, Pieris
Summer Blooming Bulbs (some hardy, some annual)- Crocosmia, Dahlia (tender), Elephant Ears (A), Freesia (A), Iris, Peony
Summer Blooming Shrubs- Butterfly Bush, Clethra, Crape Myrtle, Hydrangeas, Roses
Warm Season Annuals (May-October+)- Fuchsia (some are perennial), Geraniums, Impatiens, Petunias, Marigolds, Verbena (some are perennial), Zinnia
Fall Annuals and Colorful Perennials- Add into pots, borders & beds- Pansies & Violas; Mums & Asters; Cabbage & Kale and Fall Color Vines (Purple Grape, Silver Lace Vine, Virginia Creeper) & Shrubs (Dogwood, Spirea & Blueberries), Evergreen Perennials (Heuchera, Tiarella & Hellebores), Broad Leaf (Euonymus, Azaleas & Lonicera) & Conifers.
Late fall -Winter-Early Spring- Blooming Shrubs- Camellias, Current, Daphne (winter), Forsythia, Quince, Sweet Box, Viburnum (some), Witch Hazel
Plants with Berries- Beauty Berry, Blueberries & Evergreen Huckleberries, Cotoneaster, Holly, Juniper, Mondo Grass, Nandina, St. John’s wort, Viburnum (some), Wintergreen
January & February: Plant Cool Season Annuals & Veggie Seeds inside. Plant hardy trees, shrubs, perennials, vines and grasses- weather permitting. Plant Bare root fruits and berries.
March & April: Plant Cool Annual Starts & Veggie Starts outside, weather permitting. Plant hardy trees, shrubs, perennials, vines and grasses. Plant Warm Season Annuals & Veggie Seeds inside (Feb-April) read directions for plant timing to put outdoors.
May: Plant Warm Season Annual Starts, Veggie Starts and Hanging Baskets outside, weather permitting. Plant hardy trees, shrubs, perennials, vines and grasses. Plant Summer Blooming Bulbs (April – June) see directions on package.
June: Put houseplants outside in the shade on porch or other protected areas for summer-repot and fertilize as needed. Direct Sow Seeds (late May-early June)
July & August: Plant Warm Season Annual Starts- replace dead or tired plants from baskets. Start Fall Blooming Annuals & Cool Season Veggies- in pots or direct sow into ground/beds.
September: Plan Your Fall & Late Winter Tasks. Plant Fall Crops Starts, Fall pots & Hardy Plants. Bring indoors houseplants & tropicals. Lawn Care- Aerate, Thatch (if needed), Sod/Seed, Fertilize. Plant Spring Blooming Bulbs (Aug- Oct). Direct Sow Root Veggies Seeds.
October: Plant Fall Crop Starts, Hardy Plants. Rake Leaves, clean plants. Mulch.
November: Irrigation winterized (or in October). Cover spigots. Plants should all be winterized.
December: Decorate for holidays. Feed the birds.
If you have questions, Ask Kerri at: email@example.com
Natural Gardening = "Organic Gardening” based on using whole ingredients of natural origin- bat guano & other manures, cottonseed meal, kelp and, bone meal, etc. It utilizes the processes of using slow release fertilizers, beneficial microbes, practical planting and beneficial insects / low toxicity pesticides.
Healthy Soil = Healthy Plants Right Plant - Right Place
How does Organic Gardening differ from Conventional Gardening? Organic gardening feeds the soil. Traditional relies solely on chemicals. Traditional gardening uses chemical fertilizers produced with inorganic salts and recycled industrial waste products. This approach deadens the soil, killing the beneficial microbes (Mycorrhizae). The plants are then dependent upon receiving the fertilizers as it sole means of capturing nutrients. Mycorrhizae are beneficial fungus that lives on the roots helping the plant break down nutrients in a symbiotic relationship. 90% of terrestrial plants use mycorrhizae- exceptions aquatic plants, epiphytes and orchids. Below are the 6 steps to a Natural Garden!
1. Healthy Soil = Healthy Plants
Fertilizer 101 “NPK” The 3 main macro-nutrient sources Nitrogen – Phosphorus – Potassium
Nitrogen – The most used nutrient, stimulates vegetative growth. Involved with protein metabolism, chlorophyll production and genetic material regulation. Nitrogen is made my soil microbes and added from sources like manures. Deficiency: yellow leaves, stunted new growth.
Phosphorus- Important for flower, seed, root and fruit growth. Essential for membrane formation, genetic material and energy exchange. Works best in soil PH 6-7. Deficiency: Red/purple leaves, stunted growth, burned tips on new growth. Excess restricts Zinc, Manganese & Iron
Potassium- Improves plants overall vigor and disease resistance. Encourages root growth and fruit quality. Used for many cellular processes and regulates absorption of Calcium, Sodium and Nitrogen. Helps promote strong roots to grow into compacted soils. Deficiency: marginal chlorosis starting from bottom leaves progressing upwards. Excess blocks Magnesium and Boron absorption.
Other Micronutrients- Boron, Calcium, Chlorine, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Magnesium, Sulfur, Zinc
NPK number should add up to about 15-20 to be considered “organic”. The larger the numbers, the faster it is released into the soil while lower numbers stays in the soil longer.
Mulching Helps plants by choking out weeds, retain moisture and provides winter protection for plant roots. Avoid using plastic underneath mulch-instead use a breathable weed barrier material. Best mulch- compost, cocoa shells or other organic leafy material/hay. Bark robs the soil of nutrients.
Composting Make your own or buy commercially bagged or in bulk. Takes a long time to make your own. Try a “worm bin”. Use a container to house earthworms, feed kitchen scraps and use the castings.
Watering Proper watering is crucial! Longer deeper drinks make longer stronger root systems. Container plants need more water especially during hot, sunny weather.
2. Right Plant = Right Place Plant Types, Zones, Plant Tags
Read Plant tags and research before planting. Hardy Plants- can survive our winters. Tender or Tropical Plants- needs winter protection or treat as an annual. Annual=One Season; Perennial=more than 2 seasons
3. Create Balanced Ecosystem
Companion Planting Has intrigued humans for thousands of years. The idea that plants assist each other to grow well, help repel insects, and are a benefit to each other.
4. Attract Beneficials-Repel Pests
Beneficial Insects Use “hardy” insects for your area. Be cautious of chemical sprays that can harm your beneficial’s. Release them according to the directions.
Help, My Plant is Sick! What to do when you are having problems…..Determine if is:
1.Environmental- lack of water, mulch, compost or chemical burn, wrong plant wrong place, PH/soil problems.
2.Nutrient Deficiency- stunted growth, leaf chlorosis, poor flower/fruit production
3.Pests / Disease- pests on plants, chewed or holes in leaves, mold/mildew/spots on leaves.
4.Diagnosis Problem- take a sample to a local nursery, extension service, experienced Horticulturist to help with diagnosis of the problem.
5.Treat Condition- Use appropriate treatment, follow direction, wear protection.
6.Use Pesticides Sparingly- Use least toxic method first, use stronger only if needed.
6. Think Twice Before Applying
Pesticides 101 Always use the least toxic remedy first. Then try more extreme methods. Use “Caution” marked products vs “Danger” or “Warning”. Use proper protective safety gear. Avoid spraying on windy days. Avoid all bodies of water (fish and pond life sensitive to chemicals). Read the directions before applying!
Growing Blueberries really isn’t that hard, provided that you give them the right conditions in order for them to thrive. Here are some suggestions:
Location & Soil- Choose a spot that receives full to part sun for 6-8 hours. Avoid high wind areas, Protect branches from heavy snow pack. Needs well-draining, Acidic Soil high in organic matter.
Water- Likes regular water, especially during summer- to reduce heat stress and produce juicy fruit.
Fertilizer- Use an Organic Acid Fertilizer, same one used for Rhodies, Azaleas, Heather, Camellias, PNW Natives & Ferns, etc.- we like G&B. Apply during initial planting, then 2-3 times during the growing season- Mid-March & May. Top dress or mulch with an acid planting mix to conserve moisture, choke out weeds and protect roots.
Planting- In early spring to early summer or fall, before or after extreme heat or below extreme freezing weather. Space 4’ feet + apart, depending upon variety.
Pruning- Allow your plants to grow and establish for at least 3 years before you prune. Do not let plants younger than 3 years bear fruit, this can kill your plant. Or purchase older plants that can bear fruit sooner. Established plants can be pruned as needed- goal is to promote growth of strong new growth, remove dead & crossing branches (thin) and remove older than 6-year-old canes. Use clean tools!
Disease- Blueberries are pretty easy care plants, provided you practice Right Plant, Right Place Rule; Use good organic acid fertilizers and soils; and Water adequately.
Types of Blueberries- There are many species of native blueberries and hybridized varieties bred for fruit taste, size, chilling hours and overall performance.
1.Northern Highbush- (Vaccinium corymbosum) are the most widely planted blueberries in the Northern US & Canada- mostly the types we carry (see below). Usually upright, large shrubs up to 6’ tall or more. No. Highbush require a minimum of 800 chilling hours for proper dormancy. Self-fertile but planting 2 increases pollination*. 2. Southern Highbush (or Rabbit Eye) grow best in the SE US and coastal CA but can grow as far north as Seattle. Hybridized for heat tolerance and low winter chilling, use another So High Bush for a pollinator.
3. Half-high Blueberries cultivars are crosses of wild selections of No Highbush and 4. Lowbush (Native, ground cover or low growing blueberries). Half-highs are lower growing, compact shrubs with yields not quite as good as No Highbush, yet retain wild flavor from Lowbush parentage.
Chill Hours= is a measure of accumulated hours of temperatures below 45 deg. F in the dormant season. Chill Hours High 800-1000 (No Highbush, Half-High, Lowbush) chill hours Low 150-800 Hours (So Highbush)
Choosing Varieties. *Each is Self-Fertile, but planting 2 different varieties that bloom at the same time will increase fruit yields. So pick two of one ripening time, better yet 2 of each for long harvest season.
We carry the following mostly Northern Highbush, except where noted: Bluecrop (ms), Bluegold (ms), Blueray(ms), Chandler(mid-L,G), Darrow(L-G), Draper (ms), Duke ( E ), Earliblue(VE), Patriot(E-G), Pink Lemonade (mid-L), Pink Popcorn (early-mid)Spartan(E-G), Tophat (ms), Toro(ms-G)
E=early ms= mid-season mid-L=mid-late L=late G=giant berries (our selections may vary!)
Bluecrop (ms)- Large, light blue, firm & flavorful fruit that sweetens when fully ripe. Berries mid-July thru August. Fall foliage mix yellow, orange and red. Scarlet new wood and winter stem color. For fresh eating, baking & sauces / syrups. Considered one of the best all around, very popular. Upright open bush 4-6’x 6’W. Grown Commercially. USDA 4-7
Bluegold (ms)- Bright white spring flowers produces heavy crops of sweet, flavorful, sky blue fruit. Compact rounded bush grows 4’ x 4’. For fresh eating, baking & sauces / syrups. Brilliant yellow fall foliage and yellow winter wood make this unusual at must have! USDA 4-7
Blueray (ms)- Heavy producer of high quality, large powder blue berries with outstanding dessert flavor. Does well in hot summers or very cold winters. Rosy pink flowers turn bright white in full bloom. Burgundy fall color. Upright open bush 5’x 5’W. Old fashion favorite. USDA 4-7
Chandler(mid-L)- Giant fruit the size of a cherry with delicious flavor. Holds distinction of the world’s largest blueberry. Long ripening season, fresh picked fruit for over 6 weeks. Can pollinate other mid or late season blueberries. Vigorous bush with slightly spreading habit reaching 5-6’. USDA 4-7
Darrow (L)- “Blue-Ribbon” giant sized fruit are slightly flattened, light blue with delightful robust flavor. Vigorous shrub reaching 5-6’. May be one of the largest fruits, size of a half dollar. USDA 5-7
Draper (ms)- Large, crisp, light blue berry. Bright white spring flowers lead to mid-summer sweet fruit. Grows to 4-5’ tall & wide. USDA 5-7
Duke (E)- Medium to large, light blue berries with mild sweet flavor. Firm, attractive berry holds its fresh quality longer than most others. One of the heaviest most consistent producers (over 20 lbs per mature bush). Upright bush growing to 4-6’ tall and wide, branches may droop when ripe. Yellow-orange fall foliage. USDA 4-7
Earliblue (VE)- Light blue, large, delicious and sweet flavored berries- the first to ripen. Upright bush with stout, crimson canes and large glossy green leaves. Avoid planting in frost pockets to protect flowers blooming in late spring. Grows 4-6’ x 6’ USDA 5-7
Patriot (E)- Selected by Univ. of Maine as best cold hardy that bears consistent crops of large sized, flavorful dark blue berries. Low growing to 4’ with dark green summer foliage and fiery orange fall colors. Preforms in a wider range of soils and can take wetter spot than most. USDA 3-7
Pink Lemonade (mid-L)- Pinkish-white summer flowers produce pale greenish berries that ripen to deep pink colored, pleasant flavored fruit. Leaves turn a blend of golden yellow to brilliant orange. Moderate grower to 4’-5’ tall and 5’ wide. USDA 4-8
Pink Popcorn (early-mid)- White spring flowers develop into a medium sized blush pink fruit with true blueberry flavor and aroma. Fresh eating, baking, syrups & sauces.Compact grower to 3-5’ tall & wide. USDA 4-8
Spartan (E)- One of the most attractive berry- quarter sized, light blue with a delicious tangy sweet flavor. Larger upright bush 5-6’ tall with glossy green leaves that turn orange and yellow in autumn. Prefers well drained, acid soil rich in organic matter. USDA 5-7
Tophat (ms)- Dwarf cultivar (cross No. Highbush with wild Lowbush) growing to 1.5’ x 1.5’ tall & wide. Plentiful, dainty white blooms in spring lead to pea sized light blue berries. Use as a low border or in pots. Can be used as a Bonsai. Fiery crimson fall foliage. USDA 3-7
Toro (ms)- Produces full, heavy clusters of sky blue delectable berries. One of the most attractive ornamental shrubs-upright, compact habit 4’x4’ with hot pink flowers turning bright white contrasting with bronze colored spring foliage. Deep green summer foliage turns shades of scarlet in fall. USDA 4-7.
Blueberries are one of my favorite landscape plants. Here are 4 reasons why
1. Tasty Fruit that is packed full of nutrients!
2. They are "all season" having some kind of showy appeal throughout the entire year. Spring flowers follow edible summer fruit, followed by festive fall foliage and bright colored winter stems.
3. Easy to grow- in landscape, hedges, pots and containers. Plant in same acidic soil conditions as Camellias, Azaleas & Rhododendrons, Ferns, Conifers and Natives.
4. Benefits wildlife. Is a pollinator attractor plant, plus the extra fruit you don't eat the birds and other critters will.
Most Blueberries are considered "self fertile" but growing two or more of the same bloom time will increase your fruit yields. See next blog on blueberry care, coming soon.