How often have we all heard people say "I talk to my plants"?  Numerous times right!  But no one ever says I listen to my plants.

 So often I see plants crying out for help and their mentors are turning a blind eye and deaf ear to their problems.

 How often I see evergreens under stress.  Stress caused by sucking insects such as spider mites.  The mottling and lack luster foliage is evident even from a distance.  The evergreens are crying out in agony as the spider mites suck from them their vitality and life.  Spider mites are usually found lurking on the undersides of the foliage looking like dust and feeling like grit.  They love hot dry locations where they may breed a whole new generation every three to five days.  An occasional strong spraying of water in early morning is a good natural deterrent.  As you spray listen to the joyful noise as your plants sing in the shower.

 Some of the other atrocities I have seen are evergreens sheared back in their prime.  Sheared back to their old wood leaving no foliage.  Their shrieks of pain in death rival any of those from a Banshee!  

Or the other case of an old fellow lingering on.  His branches straggly, his foliage thin and lack luster, his craggy voice begging for a revitalizing hard pruning back.  Prune him back and watch him strut his stuff.  He is now a younger more vibrant, vigorous and lush plant.  Listen to him now, singing your praises at the top of his lungs.

 A cry for help I hear to often is from a newly planted or occasionally from an older poorly established one.  Their drooping leaves echoing their wailing voices.  Most caregivers who notice assume that it is a lack of water.  But often the plants are shedding tears of excess moisture –they're too wet! 

  It is possible they are dry or they're in shock from poor handling while planting.  In short; pay attention, do not assume, check it out!

 In the Autumn of our lives we have a tendency to shed a few hairs sometimes balding more than we would like too!  Evergreens in Autumn shed their old foliage as well.  It is a natural occurrence like finding pine needles on a pine forest floor.  But stressed out evergreens loose an excessive amount of foliage, sometimes loosing all their foliage except those leaves at their branch tips.  This stressed out condition was caused by adverse conditions like a dry summer or a lack of food.  Give these plants a little Tender Loving Care (T.L.C.). Feed them with a winterizing fertilizer, water them in well just before the ground freezes and screen or wrap them with burlap to protect them from the winters harsh wind and sun.  Do this and feed them in the spring and by summer they will be singing the hallelujah chorus!

 Talking about shedding foliage, some caregivers must truly be deaf not to hear the shouts for help from trees affected by apple scab and peach leaf curl. The former will have leaves with spots of dark green or black maybe touched with a rusty edge.  Then it rains yellow leaves and by mid-summer a severe infection will cause almost total defoliation.  To prevent this, spray them in very early spring with a dormant spray just as their buds swell.  During the growing season spray them with Benomyl.  The same treatment is given for ornamental crabapples which also can be affected by apple scab. 

 With peach leaf curl the plant's caregiver must truly be blind as well as deaf.  The leaves of their peaches, apricots, almonds and nectarines will cry out as they become thickened, pink to red in color and distorted.  As the infection spreads the leaves will yellow and drop.  For some poor plants the infected leaves may even drop green.  Some severe cases of neglect result in limb death and subsequent amputation.  To control or prevent the agony of peach leaf curl, spray with a dormant spray in early spring just as the buds swell.  Then to hold the line but not win the battle spray with  a fruit tree spray containing Ferbam during the growing season.  It is important to help control the spread of both of these diseases by removing all leaves and fruit that have fallen to the ground.

 As you walk your garden and observe natures splendor look for small and subtle changes in your plants.  In late spring listen for the whimpers from your annuals slapped by the cold.  Their tightly curled leaves shivering in the morning light.  And ask yourself "Did I plant to early?" "Did I harden them off enough?  "Should I have covered them at night?"  If these cries for help occur later in the season during warm weather it is usually a sign of an insect attack.  Investigate, determine the safest, effective control and sound the charge, don't hesitate the enemy won't!  As you continue your stroll through the garden you are like an orchestra conductor always listening for the discordant note.  As you pass your Rhododendron section you hear it.  Some of their leaves are distorted, puckered, notched or one sided possibly with their undersides split and peeled.  The evidence is clear you have frost damage on broadleaf evergreens such as Rhododendrons excess growth late in the season is almost always the cause.  To prevent this avoid all fertilizing of Rhododendrons after the first of July.

 The next time you pass a Magnolia tree and hear a subtle whisper in your ear stop!  She is trying to get your attention.  Magnolias like a slightly acidic soil.  Ordinary fertilizers just won't do.  Her foliage is a pale lime green and her growth is stunted.  Treat her to a feeding of an iron enriched fertilizer.  If the Magnolia still lacks color treat her to a dessert of plant products 25-10-10 acid plant food, Mmmm!  That's even better than chocolate cake!

 Many of your plants will require this kind of attention to their color and performance.  Interpret their demands and respond with a fertilizer they are begging for.  For quick results use 20-20-20 for vegetative growth and 15-30-15 for flower production.

 In gardening like in a good relationship one must listen as well as talk and respond to the others needs.   So pay attention!  Look, listen and learn.  Do this and your gardens will resound to the chorus of voices singing your praises.




Copyright 2003