Editor’s note: Kelly R. Jackson’s Garden Corner column has a different format. He takes questions called into his phone recently at the Christian County Extension Office and answers them in the column.
Question. Are the bargain bins of flower bulbs worth buying?
Answer. Avoid the “bargain” bulbs. Much of the plant material offered at reduced prices are low grades (smaller bulbs). Low grades will not produce as large a flower or may not flower at all. More often than not, you will be disappointed in plants resulting from inferior grade material. Instead, select healthy larger bulbs free from mold, odor, discoloration or other signs of rot.
October and November is the perfect time to plant spring-blooming bulbs like daffodils, crocus, and tulips. Following a few simple guidelines will help give your bulbs the start they need to ensure great performance next spring.
Begin by selecting a site with well-drained soil, amend the soil if necessary. The planting site should received a minimum of five hours of sunlight however 8 to 10 hours of full sun will ensure maximum growth, larger blooms and healthier plants year after year. One exception is lily-of-the-valley that thrives in shade. Incorporate nutrients into the top 2 inches of soil. Bonemeal at a rate of 4 to 6 pounds per 100 sq. ft will provide all essential nutrients. Inorganic fertilizer, low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus (1:3:1) is another option.
Follow the package directions on depth of bulb plantings; however the general rule of thumb for proper planting depth is 2 to 3 times as deep as the height of the bulb. Depth is measured from the top of the bulb.
Q. Why are the trees dropping so much sap? Everything on my deck is sticky.
A. While it may seem like trees are dripping sap, it is more likely to be late season aphids or scale causing your deck and patio furniture to get sticky. This year, the primary culprit has been Asian woolly hackberry aphids. You may have noticed them floating through the air like white fuzz or heavy at times like snowfall. A covering of thin bluish-white waxy filaments causes these small sap-feeding insects to standout on foliage.
As these insects feed on the sap in the tree leaves, they exude a sticky substance called honeydew. The honeydew will cover the tree’s foliage and often drifts onto the lawn, shrubs, sidewalk, or patio furniture below making everything sticky.
A sooty, black fungus then begins growing on the surface of the honeydew. This fungus is called Sooty Mold, and although an eyesore, it does not kill plants. In severe cases, sooty mold may develop on the tree or a shrub below to the extent that sunlight is blocked and photosynthesis cannot occur.
Although plants, furniture and sidewalks can be cleaned (rainfall will also help), the problem will continue unless control is targeted at the insect pests. Horticultural oil or insecticide soap is effective on aphids; systemic insecticides may be required for scale insects.
Q. When do I fertilize my lawn?
A. Cool season lawns, like tall fescue, will benefit this month from an application of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Lawns low in phosphorus and potassium should receive ½ pound of phosphorous and potassium per 1,000 square feet this month as well.
To maintain a higher maintenance schedule of your turf a second fertilizer application can be applied in November/December. If you reseeded in August or September, don’t forget to continue your watering schedule. A common mistake people make, when growing a lawn, is to believe since temperatures are cooler grass is not using water.
The first few months of new seedling growth are critical for root development and plant establishment and even with colder temperatures grass should receive 1 to 2 inches of water weekly. Maintaining this schedule will encourage deep rooting and give your lawn greater survivability next summer.
Kelly R. Jackson is the Christian County Extension Agent for horticulture. He can be reached at 270-886-6328 or visit Christian County Horticulture online at www.christiancountyextension.com.