March 2017 – Tips of the month

Bud break on a crabapple

Insect and Disease Control

Before bud break is the proper time to apply dormant oils. Dormant oils are horticultural grade products used to smother and prevent overwintering insect larvae from hatching.  Some oils will also work on diseases that also overwinter.  There are many brand name oils on the market today.  I try to look for the most eco-friendly product.  I am using an organic product called Neem Oil.  Make sure you wear protective clothing and googles when applying any of the oil products and only apply when the wind is less than 7 miles per hour to avoid drift.  You will want to saturate the branches with the spray so that it covers all sides.  For a continuous spray program, Neem oil can be applied throughout the growing season every 14 days up until harvest.  Commercial grade dormant oils will burn foliage so they should only be used before bud break.  More on insect and disease control as the season develops.

Weed Control

If you look outside you will notice a greening of soils taking place.  Our grasses, perennial weeds and cool weather annual grasses and weeds are beginning to germinate and regenerate.  I saw my first dandelion today so I thought it is time to finish this tip.  Pre-emergent herbicides will prevent weed seed germination but the product needs to be applied before too much greening takes place.  A good indicator for the proper time of application is when the daffodils begin to bloom. The time to apply a pre-emergent herbicide is generally March and the first of April.  However this year with the weather being relatively mild, I believe our window to apply will be shortened.

This year I am using corn gluten meal an organic pre-emergent because I had a severe crabgrass problem last year and I need to supply some sort of preventative measures in my gardens that are organic.  If you have winter seeded or planning to re-seed a portion of your lawn do not apply a pre-emergent as it is non-selective which means the product cannot distinguish between good grass seed and weed seeds.  For severe problems of crabgrass, a second application can be made in late August to early September.

Drainage Solutions

We are coming up to a very traditional wet time of the year and now is a good time to observe and assess any drainage issues that you may have.  We addressed drainage around your home in January so now we want to look at driveways, walks and natural swales.  Areas to look for include walkway and porch step transitions where a bed is higher than the surrounding walkway and steps.  Broken concrete and improperly installed hard surfaces such as pavers, brick and flagstone will settle and begin to wash out or lose their base causing the walkway and steps to become unsafe.

To address the problem, lower the bed elevation if possible or install some sort of retainage such as a stone wall to slow down the washing.  Minor erosion can be controlled by mulching with a shredded product such as hardwood bark.  Do not use pine bark as it will float during moderate to severe rains.  If you have a natural swale that is holding water or is steep enough to cause erosion, a more intense solution may be necessary.  If water flow is causing the soil to erode, it is best to establish a ground covering with a fibrous root system.  Grass seed or sod is the best but it does take some time to establish.  Netting may also be required to stabilize the area.  If the erosion is more severe then you may have to install drainage pipe to carry the excess water away.  I have also had great success in controlling drainage problems by accentuating the swale, re-grading the soil and installing washed gravel to form a dry creek bed.  If you need help with addressing your drainage issues, I am available for consultations.