How do you take care of those wonderful woody plants?

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

Beautiful woody plants are bursting with blooms right now. Visitors to the Miss-Lou are in awe of our fabulous azaleas, snowball bushes and dogwoods in bloom. There’s no place like the South during springtime.

With the commencement of spring, there are several activities to accomplish in order to further the success of our wonderful array of shrubs and trees. Feed spring blooming shrubs and trees as soon as all of the petals have fallen.

Camellias, azaleas and other acid loving plants should be fed a fertilizer blended especially for acid loving plants. Again, do not apply until all flowering is finished.

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Prune dead and broken wood, crossed branches and damaged limbs from spring flowering shrubs and trees. Doing so will make the plants stronger and less susceptible to insect and disease problems.

Now is the time to control scale on woody plants by applying an oil spray or a systemic insecticide. It is very important to apply oils before the temperatures rise to the 90s, in which case the foliage may burn.

Keep an eye out for caterpillars and worms chewing on the leaves of flowering fruit trees. If you haven’t sprayed flowering fruit trees like peaches, plums and crabapples, this is the time to do so.

Use extreme care when using a power trimmer or lawn mower around newly planted and older trees. Never hit or damage the bark since the slightest wound may make an easy entrance for damaging insects.

Take the time to notice any changes in the foliage of woody plants. Problems that may arise as warmer, more humid temperatures occur are numerous. If you suspect you have a insect or disease problem concerning any plants in your garden, simply bring a sample branch to a local nursery for inspection.

Thankfully many times an attack may need to &uot;just run its course.&uot; A gardener has several options once a problem begins. One choice is to stand back and let the plants endure the problem. Nine times out of 10, this solution works. Natural predators often reduce insect populations and disrupt their life cycle. Planting more disease and insect resistant cultivars is another solution.

Try using biological control measures. Although these may take longer to work, many times they are very effective. Beware, even though these are made of natural substances, read all directions as they may still be harmful around people and animals if used other than recommended.

Resort to chemical sprays only as a last resort and use with caution. Read the entire label thoroughly before you begin. Improperly used chemicals can be dangerous to people, pets and wildlife.

Never apply any insecticide unless you know for sure what the exact plant problem is. Occasionally, a well meaning person will mention a particular plant is not performing well in their garden. They continue to explain they don’t know what the problem is but they have sprayed the plant with everything that they had at the house. Sometimes, the person isn’t even sure what chemicals they have applied, only that there was a bottle of something in the shed so they figured it was worth a try.

If you are unsure as to what your specific problem is, ask an expert before you try any pesticide. Further problems may arise from mistakes. Quite often, a pest is not even the problem. A simple amendment to correct nutrient deficiencies works much of the time.

Like people, plants require nutritious meals to grow and bloom. Take care of your plants and they will return the favor year after year.

Traci Maier

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