Prune Winter Damaged Shrubs

By now winter damaged shrubs should be showing some new growth. Branches which do not have new green sprouts can be removed. Prune just above where you see new green growth. I have pruned some shrubs just a few inches from the ground. Some live branches may have to be shortened more than just back to new growth in order to keep a balanced shape.

Bark Mulch

I recommend applying bark dust as a mulch as soon as you get shrub beds cleaned out and weeds removed. I spray weeds which are not right next to valuable plants with Roundup or Avenger non-selective organic weed killer. (Avenger is an organic 70% Citrus oil weed killer. It can be ordered on line at I remove weeds next to plants by hand. Then I apply an inch or more of bark dust even before the weeds die. I also spray a minimum 6 foot circle around trees and apply bark immediately over the dying grass. It is not necessary to remove the grass since it will decay and just add more mulch. The bark dust will prevent about 80 to 90% of new weed growth. I also apply bark mulch after I get flowers and vegetables planted. I wait until seeded vegetables are up before mulching them. I also sometimes use grass clippings as mulch around fruits and vegetables. For more information on mulching go to and click on soil improvement in the how to guide.

Fertilize Lawns to last through the summer

If you have not applied fertilizer to your lawn in the last month, May is an excellent time to apply a fertilizer containing slow release nitrogen. Methylene urea is a common slow release nitrogen compound. Sulfur coated and poly coated nitrogen is also slow release. Sometimes granules are coated with both sulfur and poly. You can check the “guaranteed analysis” label to see how much if any nitrogen is slow release. Organic nitrogen is also slow release. If at least half of the nitrogen is slow release, it will last for about 3 to 4 months.

Special on Lawn Fertilization

We are running a special on lawn fertilization for the month of May. We will apply a granular fertilizer with 50% slow release nitrogen which will fertilize the grass for 4 months without need for another application. The special price is $50 for front lawn only or $75 for front and back (maximum of 4000 square feet). We will give a 10% discount if one of your neighbors buys at the same time. If you are not sure of the size of your lawn, multiply the approximate width times the approximate depth (30X50 lawn is 1500 square feet). This is just as effective as a multiple monthly liquid application at a much cheaper price. Prices on larger lawns will be equivalent. All prices are subject to applicable sales tax.

Pruning Young Trees and Shrubs

What is the appropriate age to begin pruning trees and shrubs? Some plants may not need to be pruned for years, but most need occasional pruning from the day they are planted. In fact, a little early training may save a lot of later grief.

I recently was asked to look at a large maple tree with a long crack in the crotch between the main trunk and a large branch which was 2/3 the size of the main trunk. The crotch angle was less than 30 degrees. The branch was only about 3 feet above the ground. There was another branch of similar size on the other side at about the same height. If either or both of these branches were to split in a storm, it would completely ruin the tree. Both should have been removed within a year or two after the tree was planted. Branches with narrow crotch angles are very week and easily broken. And the larger they become, the more dangerous they are.

Shrubs with a few branches which stick out beyond the outline of the plant should be shortened early before they become large in diameter. Because they are more vigorous, they should be pruned shorter than the other branches.

I can give you a free assessment about pruning your trees and shrubs no matter what size they are. Lets catch the problems while the plants are young.

Vegetables and Flowers in Containers

Containers at least 8 inches in diameter are best for container gardening because they do not dry out as quickly. Add one of the moisture absorbing materials such as “Soil Moist” to the soil before planting. Make sure your container has adequate holes in the bottom for drainage. If using a decorative outer container, make sure the inner container has holes.

The best vegetables for container gardening are the small root and leaf vegetables like carrot, beet, radish, onion, lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard. More than one vegetable can be planted in a single container. A six inch square sown with a couple dozen seeds can produce a surprising amount. Plant a single plant of broccoli, cabbage, tomato or pepper in tubs up to 18 inches. Use determinate or bush type tomato varieties.

There are dozens if not hundreds of flower varieties which have been developed especially for containers. There are also many others which work very well. Almost any flower which grows less than 6 inches tall can be planted in containers. For more detailed information on planting container flowers go to and click on flowers/container flowers under the how to guide.

Prevent Wormy Apples and Pears

As soon as flower petals have all fallen, it is time to protect apples, and to a lesser extent pears, from codling moths. Codling moths lay their eggs on developing fruit. Eggs hatch into worms which bore into the fruit. Insecticides such as malathion and carbaryl (Sevin) kill the worms as they hatch. They need to be applied every two weeks until about August first.

Codling moth traps can be placed in trees to trap the male moths. They are attracted to the pheromone in the traps. If enough traps are placed in trees, virtually all the male moths are trapped. Without fertilization, the female moths lay infertile eggs. Large trees may need up to 5 traps. Three traps is normal for most semi-dwarf trees. If you have some large neighboring trees which do not have traps, your traps may not be completely effective.

Plant Annual Flowers Between Bulbs

I usually plant annual flowers such as petunias, alyssum, lobelia, or marigolds in between the bulb leaves so I can have summer color where I had spring bulb color. They will not bother the bulbs which will soon be dormant. The bulbs will come up next spring the same as usual.