My column last week started the top 10 dos and don'ts of gardening. I started with No. 10 and I am working toward No. 1. These are my top 10, and if you had to come up with your top 10, they would be different.
Let's review last week's list:
No. 10: Plant at the right time
No. 9: Plant properly
No. 8: Select the right plant
No. 7: Don't over-fertilize
No. 6: Prune correctly
I discussed these in detail. Now, let's take a look at the last five dos and don'ts of gardening.
No. 5: Plant a lot of flowers.
Isn't this what gardeners do? Gardeners like flowers, and they tend to plant them for beauty, color and to have something different in the landscape.
More flowers also should be planted for beneficial insects. Beneficial insects are those that help with pollination or that eat other insects. The majority of the predator or beneficial insects feed on flowers or nectar during their adult phase. The larva stage is the one that eats other insects.
Having plenty of flowers around your vegetable garden can increase the number of beneficial insects and reduce the number of harmful insects. Some of the flowers that work well are zinnias, marigolds and petunias. Deer are not fond of zinnias.
No. 4: Practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
The basic thought behind IPM is to use cultural and mechanical practices to have healthy plants, and to use pesticides as a last resort. Some of the cultural practices that we can do to have healthy plants is to fertilize and water properly, creating an environment that increases beneficial insects.
Proper pruning and mowing are practices that increase the health of a plant. Mechanical practices would be hand-picking harmful insects from plants and using traps or trap crops to trap insects.
Another principal of IPM is threshold levels. It takes a certain amount of insects or weeds before you start seeing a decrease in yields or damage to plants.
If you delay spraying, beneficial insects will build up numbers to take care of the problem, so you can reduce the amount of pesticides used.
No. 3: Mulch your plants.
This is one of the best things you can do for your plants. Mulch helps to conserve soil moisture, keep the soil cooler, keep the soil from compacting and control weeds.
Plants that have been properly mulched didn't stress as much as plants without the proper amount of mulch the past two summers when we had below-average rainfall.
The proper amount of mulch is 3 to 4 inches in the bed area. For annual flowers, you can reduce this to 2 inches. When mulching around trees, increase the size of the mulched area as the tree grows. Don't form tree volcanoes by increasing the depth of the mulch on the trunk of the tree. This does harm to the tree.
No. 2: Irrigate properly.
Eighty percent of the plant problems I see are caused by too much water. Most of our plants need 1 inch of water per week to grow and do well, and we prefer that it be applied at one time. This is called deep watering. Deep watering encourages a deep root system. Deep watering is for shrubs, trees and lawns.
You don't need to water your lawns until the grass tells you it needs water. When you start seeing areas wilting, you need to water. When the grass wilts, this causes the root system to grow deeper looking for water.
No. 1: Take a soil sample.
You didn't think a county agent would leave out soil sampling, did you? A soil sample will tell you what nutrients you have in the soil. This way, you are not guessing about how much fertilizer you need for your plants. You can improve the health of your plants by applying the right amount of fertilizer.
These are my top 10 list of dos and don'ts for gardeners. For more information on these, please contact me.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at email@example.com. The Extension Web address is www.ugaextension.com/columbia.
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