SHRUB PRUNING

The best way to prune shrubs is to prune individual branches one at a time. Pick one of the longest branches and follow it down into the shrub. Prune down to a side branch at or below the height you want. You may need to follow some branches past where they connect to a larger branch.

Shorten upper branches more than lower branches so the shrub is tapered in as you go up. You may not need to prune lowest branches at all. This taper allows more light to reach the lower branches so they do not lose their leaves and become bare.

By pruning branches down inside other growth, the stubs do not show. Pruning to a side branch keeps the same thickness of branches, whereas shearing multiple branch tips causes three or more branches to grow from each pruning cut, creating an artificially thick growth. If growth is already too thick from previous shearing, removing some of the larger branches with multiple side branches will restore the plant to its natural thickness.

CONTROLLING SUMMER PESTS

Insects multiply much faster in warm weather. Aphids and mites are two pests to watch for. Aphids (often called plant lice) are small soft bodied sucking insects usually concentrated on new growth. They are usually green, but can also be pink or black. Aphids exude a sweet juice which drips on the ground. Ants are often associated with aphids because they use the juice for food.

Mites are tiny eight legged pests which suck juices almost entirely on the underside of leaves. They are especially bad on needle-leaf evergreens, Potentilla, Euonymus, roses, and marigolds. Yellow and brown mottling on leaves or needles is the most common symptom. Hold a white piece of paper under affected growth and shake. You will see tiny specks which move.

Both aphids and mites can be washed off plants. A strong stream of water will wash most of them off. However, soap or detergent will do a more thorough job of removing them. You can make your own mixture using dish wash detergent. You can also purchase insecticidal soap.

A venturi type injector such as “Hozon” or “Syphonex” works very well for this purpose. It is an inexpensive connector placed between two hoses or between the faucet and hose. It has a rubber tube which is placed in a bucket of strong soapy water. The soapy water is siphoned into water running through the hose. With a nozzle on the end of the hose you can wash these two pests off onto the ground and they will not find their way back up onto the plants. However, you will need to follow with another application in about 2 weeks after the eggs hatch.

Neem oil is a natural pesticide that is effective in controlling aphids, mites, and many other pests. Chemical pesticides include malathion, carbaryl (sevin), and acephate.

For trees which are difficult to reach with a sprayer, Imidacloprid is a systemic pesticide which can be applied to the soil and is taken up by the roots. It is available in several brands including Monterey Once A Year Insect Control. Check labels for the active ingredient.

FERTILIZE FLOWERS AND VEGETABLES

Most flower and vegetable varieties have been selected and developed to do best with high fertility. I normally make a second fertilizer application about the first of August.

Many of the root and leaf vegetables are harvested by now and do not need more fertilizer. The longer growing ones like tomatoes, squash and especially corn can benefit from additional fertilizer. Corn uses a lot of nitrogen, so I usually feed it with lawn fertilizer.

I use a general purpose fertilizer such as a 12-12-12 or 16-16-16 for other flowers and vegetables. Organic fertilizers with smaller nutrient percentages also work fine.

I apply a coated slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote to my hanging baskets and other containers when they are planted. I like to make a second application about the middle of August to keep them growing until the end of the season. They can deteriorate quite rapidly if they run out of fertilizer.

Have you noticed that when hot weather comes the weeds seem to thrive and grow even faster at the same time other plants slow down? Most weeds have a different system of metabolism than most cultivated plants. They are programmed to grow and mature seed quickly, especially in hot weather. That is why when we neglect to remove weeds while they are small, they can completely overwhelm other plants in a short time.

LAW OF THE HARVEST

The Law of the Harvest is one of the most important laws we can learn for ourselves and teach to our children. Many people who flounder through life have never learned this law of nature.

Farmers and ranchers know this law very intimately because it is right in front of them every day. But gardening is an equally good teacher. The Law of the Harvest can be defined very simply as “you harvest what you plant.” But gardeners know there are many steps between planting and harvest. In following these steps we learn many other important principles along the way.

The first step is to select plants which are adapted to the climate, soil and light conditions in a particular location in your garden or landscape. Vegetable gardeners soon learn that most vegetables require full sunlight to thrive. They also do best with rich, well-drained soil. Efforts made to improve existing soil are rewarded with success. Vegetables require regular care to provide the water, nutrients, and lack of competition from weeds and other pests.

One of the best applications of these principles is in marriage. Selecting a partner who matches our own background, interests, goals, and principles is vital to marital success. Marriages also require regular care and light from each partner to develop a happy relationship. The weeds of argument, infidelity, inattention, and lack of communication can destroy a marriage. Nutrients like smiles, hugs, concern, and thoughtful acts will also make a marriage thrive.

Of course these same principles apply to all aspects of life such as work. Wouldn’t you like to have a co-worker, employee or supervisor who has learned these principles and applies them to his/her work?

I learned that the best way to teach children these principles was to give them a small area which was completely theirs. I would help and advise, but leave the decisions and responsibility to the child. If the child became discouraged by weeds, I would work beside him to help (but not do it for him). I found that working together with a child is one of the best ways to nurture a relationship. Children’s response to “would you help me?” is much better when you have responded to similar requests from them.

But what if the child loses interest and the gardening project fails from lack of regular attention? Doesn’t that teach a lesson also? However, noticing and praising even the smallest successes in his/her garden will go a long way toward nurturing interest. That is the “sugar attracts more flies than vinegar” principle.