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May 2023

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L ast month I discussed the issues of over-caring for our plants. The other extreme is under-caring. Life is busy and it's hard to find time for everything these days. But if you want your land- scape to look its best, and your pants to live, you need to allot some time for your plants. The first step again begins with the soil and a soil test. All soil can use amend- ment. If you're not trying to make a plants home more desirable, should we really expect them to thrive? By amending the soil, the roots have a better chance to grow and help with establishment. For existing plants, top dress around your plants with compost or worm castings. They break down in the rain and make their way into the soil that way. For new plantings always mix the backfill soil with 50% existing soil to 50% compost. Ignoring your soil is a recipe for disaster. Under-watering your plants is just as bad as over-watering: no moisture in the soil, no transfer of minerals for plant growth or survival. Not to mention if the roots dry down to far, they're not be able to take up water. First, new plantings should be watered in wells. This fills any air gaps that might dry up roots plus gives them good soil contact. They should also be checked for water more frequently than your existing plants, at least once a week, but twice would be better. New plantings need spe- cial care for the first couple of years to succeed during the establishment period. Existing plants also have to be checked for water but not as often as new ones. Check them every two weeks during a normal year and once a week during times of drought. Proper watering is crucial. Your land- scape plants on average need 1 inch of rain/water per week. Our goal should be to mimic rain. If watering individual plants: trees need on average 50 to 60 gal- lons a week, shrubs 30-40, and perennials and annuals 2-3. No, or limited, watering will injure existing plants, causing them to show signs of distress. This will most likely kill new plants. Under-fertilizing can also become an issue. This mainly happens with annual plants because they are such heavy feed- ers. Trees, shrubs, perennial and roses might need a boost as well at times. Refer back to your soil test and talk to someone at a reputable garden center for help and suggestions. The last aspect I would like to address is ignoring signs of distress in your plants. Catching an issue early allows for early intervention and good plant recovery. When you wait too long it's sometimes too late to get an upper hand on the problem, and may even cause plant decline and even death. So do a garden tour of your yard at least once a week to check on your plants. Nobody likes to lose plants. To many of us they are like family. When it comes to plant care, never just take a stab in the dark at it and expect good results. When we use crises management we are just creating, and taking up, more of our pre- cious time and energy. Proper care actual- ly saves you time. Know your plants and their care right from the beginning. So, now seeing both sides of the coin of over and under caring for plants, hopeful- ly we can find the middle ground of prop- er care. By focusing on this and not abid- ing by the extremes, our plants should have a long, prosperous life. Happy gar- dening! (Michael Timm is chief horticulturalist for Ebert's Greenhouse Village in Ixonia.) MAY 2023 HOME 5 Are we spending enough time with our plants? Signs of not giving enough care MICHAEL TIMM While some signs of not giving enough care to plants are easy to spot, finding the right balance might not always be so easy. Photo courtesy of Michael Timm

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