Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Soil Additives; What's Blooming; Invasive Plants & Insects

My husband's creation! 
Composted Manure and Humus
I like to add this pre-made mixture to my garden soils. This adds a lot of nutrients to the soil, and helps hold moisture as well. There are other soil improvements that you can purchase, but the composted manure and humus combination is readily available. You can add this mixture to your gardens in the fall or spring. Top dress about an 1" or so around your plants and rake it in lightly. It is not recommended that you add more than 2" per year to your soil.

Here is a link to more information on SOILBuilding Healthy Garden Soil

Fresh Sawdust
If you use fresh sawdust as a mulch you need to add additional nitrogen to the soil. Fresh sawdust takes the nitrogen out of the soil as it decomposes and could end up killing your plants. And in addition to that it could take up to 4 years for it to decompose completely. 

Testing Your Soil
Rhododendron growing in our backyard

If some of your plants are struggling it could be that you planted an item that needs an additive such as sphagnum peat which is also an organic matter and would lower alkaline soils or pine needles to raise the pH. Most soil in our area (I am assuming) would be on the acid side, and that is probably because of all the rain and snow we get. Apparently, moisture raises the amount of acid in our soil. (Just found that out after doing some research on the web.) Testing your soil can determine whether or not you need to add any additional amendments, whether your soil is lacking or in excess of nutrients, and if you have metals in your soil. The test determines if your soil is low or high pH. The pH measures how acidic or alkaline your soil is. The range measuring pH is 0-14. With 7 being neutral and lower than 7 would mean high acidic soils. Some plants require high acidic soil: bleeding hearts, creeping phlox, daylilies, most ferns, blueberries, rhododendron, azaleas, astilbe,  hollies and others. Plants requiring alkaline soil: viburnum, weigela, brunnera, dianthus, hellebore, heuchera, and vinca. There are mixed reporting of these perennials because I have a viburnum shasta that does fantastic in our soil. And I have seen roses on both lists as requiring acidic soil/alkaline soil. So if you have these plants and they are doing fine then assume your soil is ok as is. I have to say that we have never had our soil tested, but because of all of our existing pine trees I always assumed it was high acid. Quite a few years ago we planted some small rhododendron bushes and we were putting wood ashes on them. After a few seasons of this the plant almost died and after some research I found out that the wood ashes were raising the pH when in actuality it needed more acid (lower pH). We applied water soluable Miracid for a few years and it took off and now the plant is about 10' tall.

If you are interested in having your soil tested check with your local Cooperative Extension. You can find a link to Cooperative Extension in my side bar on the right. Here is a link to additional information on Why to Test Your Soil? Why Test Your Soil

What's Blooming ?  

Well, first of all the golden rod is in full bloom around here. Not going to post any photos of that stuff.  Also, dahlias, chrysanthemums (mums), Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan), and the fall Autumn Joy sedums are starting to turn pink.

I visited my good friends and neighbors, Linda and Mark Adams, a few days ago and took some photos of their gardens. Linda is a master gardener. These two pictures of dahlias are from their garden. They are just exquisite! 

Double Decker Cone Flower

The Garden House/Play House
Mrs. Robert Byrdon Clematis

More Photos from Linda & Mark Adams' Gardens. 

The Adams' grapes were doing so well this year that Mark had to make an additional trellis (pictured below) in the front of the previous trellis that they had installed a few years ago. It came out really great.

Thanks Mark & Linda for allowing me to photograph some of your beautiful garden features!

Grape Trellis

Garden Maintenance 
You can probably trim back most of your plants that are starting to turn yellow, brown or have crisp edges. I've trimmed my astilbes back and next will probably be the peonies. I feel that the more I trim back now in the fall the less I'll have to do in the spring. Some garden articles recommend that you do not cut back your daylilies because the leaves help protect the crown of the plant from the winter freezes and thaws, but I've never lost any daylilies over the winter from trimming them back.

Perennial plants that should not be trimmed back until spring: Autumn Joy (tall) sedums and mums.

And DON'T prune Tree Peonies at all! and don't split them up!  A few years ago my tree peony was doing great and it had a couple of shoots coming off the sides so I asked my husband to split it up. BIG MISTAKE! The plant only has one major root and luckily the peony came back and finally bloomed again after about a 3 year recovery period.
Here is more information on peonies: Peony Care

Invasive Plants & Insects

Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife   Photo: Ted Link
While this plant appears to be very attractive along the sides of the roads, this plant is threatening the natural food sources for native wetland wildlife by crowding out their natural food sources and protective hiding places. One mature plant can produce over 2 million seeds annually. If you have this plant on your property please keep it cut back or pulled out so it does not produce seeds. Small areas can also be treated with herbicides. (Herbicides: Rodeo near wetlands and Roundup for uplands). Purple loosestrife is found in every state in the US except Florida.

Here is a link for more information: Purple Loosestrife

I will discuss other invasive plants in following issues.

Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer
Peter Chen/Post Standard file photo
The Emerald Ash Borers feed on and eventually kill ALL native ash trees. We can help to slow the spread of this harmful insect by NOT TRANSPORTING ANY FIREWOOD. The ash trees are very common in New York State. The ash tree was widely planted to replace the trees that were lost to the Dutch Elm disease. The adult beetle does little damage to the trees- just eats some leaves. The major damage to the trees results from the larva which feeds on the inner layer of the bark and after that the trees are unable to move nutrients and water from the soil to the rest of the tree.

If you have seen the purple, wedged shaped things hanging from trees in your area and wonder what those are- they are the Emerald Ash Borer Traps. They are used to determine early detection and infestations.

More information on the Emerald Ash Borer: Emerald Ash Borer New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation

Emerald Ash Borer: Regulations and Quarantines: Emerald Ash Borer Regulations & Quarantines

Link to Don't Move Firewood- You Could be Killing Our Trees

Link to Emerald Ash Borer found in Syracuse, NYEmerald Ash Borers found in Syracuse, NY

* HOTLINE: If you think you might have an ash tree infected with the Emerald Ash Borer here is a hotline for you to call: 1-866-640-0652.


  1. Nice post...I enjoyed visiting. Good luck with your blog. You will find it to be very addicting and fun!

    1. Thank You so much Lee! Your comments are appreciated! I am having a lot of fun and you are absolutely right- it is very addicting.