If you have seeds leftover from previous years, rather than throwing them away, test them out now and save yourself some money.
I like to test them out by using conditions similar to what I normally use. I put in three seeds in each cell and mark each with the name of the seed and the date. I cover the seeds with a plastic lid to keep things moist and also use a shop light to keep things warm inside.
If the seeds germinate, then you know you can use them this year.
I used some vermiculite I had, but you can use any good potting mix. I don’t plan on keeping these plants – they are just letting me know the germination rate.
Note – I am also testing some new seeds from dollarseed.com
Marigold Cracker Jack – 3 days – Dollarseed.com
Zinnia – California Giant – 3 days – Dollarseed.com
Tropical Milkweed – 7 days – Dollarseed.com
Maltese Cross – Dollarseed.com
Dames Rocket – Dollarseed.com
Purple globe amaranth – Toms – 3 days – almost all seeds germinated.
Zinnia – small gold – 4 days. – one seed germinated.
Most lantana will only last a year in cold climates. In St. Louis, I have kept mine alive for eight years with very little help.
Note that Miss Huff appears to be a stronger and more hardy plant than Star Landing. Star Landing is a bit more colorful. These are the only two varieties that I have found which will come back in my area.
Don’t cut back the lantana until some time in April. I usually cut them back to about six inches. Pull back any mulch at this time to let the plants warm up….Then – be patient. They take until late May to show signs of growth.
In the fall, save your leaves and mulch the lantana with a good layer of leaves to help protect the plants. The plants against my basement always come back. Lantana appreciates the extra soil heat.
The eight plants at Whitecliff Park also came back this year without any extra help. They do however have great southern soil exposure.
If you have space for a tree or two, here are a few recommendations which I grow or have tried.
Hop Tree – Ptelea trifoliata – host for Giant Swallowtails. These trees are hard to find and you may have to start them from seed. Note you can also plant Rue for Giant Swallowtails which is obviously a lot smaller. Height and Spread is up to twenty feet.
Tulip tree – Liriodendron tulipifera – host for Tiger Swallowtails. Up to 90′ tall and 50′ wide.
Hackberry Tree – Celtis occidentalis – host for Hackberry, American Snout, Question Mark and Comma. 60′ tall and 60′ wide. I keep mine trimmed back to 7 feet tall.
Willows – host for Red Spotted Purple and Viceroy. Size depends on the variety. I have never been able to raise caterpillars on willows.
Pawpaw trees – Asimina triloba – host for Zebra Swallowtails. These are rare in my location and I have given up on this tree. It also sends up suckers so be prepared for plants all over the area.
Everyone has weeds. The questions are how do you minimize the number of weeds you have and also minimize the amount of time you spend fighting them.
I define weeds as plants which are not wanted in a particular location. Grass is fine in a lawn, but when it invades a flower garden, it’s a pain to deal with. The birds have brought in lots of bermuda grass which is continually sending out runners trying to get in with my flowers.
My main defense against weeds is a block border and a “Line of Death – LOD” around the border. I have a clear area around the border which I keep clean of any weeds. Here are a couple of tricks regarding the L.O.D.
I use a concrete block area to mark my garden area. It not only helps to define the garden, but catches garden seeds and gives me new plants every year. I like blocks that allow you to make a curve.
Be vigilant – once a week is about fine for patrolling the LOD.
Have good soil, fine mulch or compost in this LOD area so that it is easy to remove weeds. If you are trying to pull weeds from clay, it is much harder. While I buy compost by the yard, you can buy nice mixes in bags.
Preen is another product that I use at times. It keeps seeds from germinating. Put in the L.O.D. area to keep the weeds from sprouting.
Try Burnout as an organic weed killer. It works great for a week, but many times the roots are not killed and you will have to spray again.
I use a Japanese hoe to loosen weeds. It’s my favorite hand tool.
The final tool is an edger to keep the grass back. I do this once a week.
Inside the garden I sometimes use Preen for paths inside the garden. I use my Japanese hoe to get 99% of the rest of the weeds. Persistence is the key. I consider this my workout for the day.
Note – if you have already lost the battle with the weeds, it might be easier to take out the plants you want to keep, mow the area and then cover with either newspaper or cardboard and then add compost or fine mulch. Let the weeds die underneath it all for a couple of months.
I had a recent soil test done on one section of my garden. I have had plants die in the past and recently the plants looked poorly in most of the area.
The test showed high levels of phosphorous, potassium and organic matter. The test does not test for nitrogen, but based upon my organic matter levels they didn’t recommend any added nitrogen. They did mention that, “Nitrogen is not listed because the level is not stable in the soil. It changes too frequently.”
What they recommended was to cut back on the compost, since my organic matter level is so high and to cut back on the phosphorous and potassium. He said that high levels can stop the uptake of other nutrients.
Their main recommendations were…
Just use a high nitrogen fertilizer without added phosphorous or potassium – blood meal, cottonseed meal etc.
Don’t add compost for a while. Try hardwood mulch on top
I did notice that added milorganite did green up the plants, but also adds phosphorous.