Advice From A Garden BEE – Stick Close to Your Honey!

15 Jun Advice From A Garden BEE – Stick Close to Your Honey!

Summer is here!

I am often brought bags, containers and even just pieces of dead or dying plants. Why did my plant die my family, friends and yes even customers want to know. As a plant coroner, I gather information on it’s life (where, when) and even more on it’s death (more where, when). In my experience we are all sad and disappointed when a plant dies.

I often don’t properly mark the passing of some of the great plants that didn’t make it into the newest season of my garden. I am prone to digging, pulling and yanking out dead branches and stems very unceremoniously. Sometimes, when family, friends and customers bring me dead plants I am reminded of a great gardener named Geoffrey Charlesworth, who in the late 1980s wrote a book I particularly treasure called “The Opinionated Gardener,” (No, it’s not a biography of me; Charlesworth, to his great credit, was even more so, and vastly more expert.)

Why Did My Plant Die?
Geoffrey B. Charlesworth
You walked too close. You trod on it.
You dropped a piece of sod on it.
You hoed it down. You weeded it.
You planted it the wrong way up.
You grew it in a yogurt cup
But you forgot to make a hole;
The soggy compost took its toll.
September storm. November drought.
It heaved in March, the roots popped out.
You watered it with herbicide.
You scattered bonemeal far and wide.
Attracting local omnivores,
Who ate your plant and stayed for more.
You left it baking in the sun
While you departed at a run
To find a spade, perhaps a trowel,
Meanwhile the plant threw in the towel.
You planted it with crown too high;
The soil washed off, that explains why.
Too high pH. It hated lime.
Alas it needs a gentler clime.
You left the root ball wrapped in plastic.
You broke the roots. They’re not elastic.
You walked too close. You trod on it.
You dropped a piece of sod on it.
You splashed the plant with mower oil.
You should do something to your soil.
Too rich. Too poor. Such wretched tilth.
Your soil is clay. Your soil is filth.
Your plant was eaten by a slug.
The growing point contained a bug.
These aphids are controlled by ants,
Who milk the juice, it kills the plants.
In early spring your garden’s mud.
You walked around! That’s not much good.
With heat and light you hurried it.
You worried it. You buried it.
The poor plant missed the mountain air:
No heat, no summer muggs up there.
You overfed it 10-10-10.
Forgot to water it again.
You hit it sharply with the hose.
You used a can without a rose.
Perhaps you sprinkled from above.
You should have talked to it with love.
The nursery mailed it without roots.
You killed it with those gardening boots.
You walked too close. You trod on it.
You dropped a piece of sod on it.

I am not making fun of a plant throwing in the trowel. In fact, I hate it when plants die! But after several decades as a plant coroner I feel confident I can give you my expert opinion on why plants die. They most often die of thirst.

We have just begun the classic New England pattern of active cold fronts coming through our region and encountering moist air that has heated up during the day. These fronts often generate brief rains or thunderstorms. While our water tables are in good shape from the winter and spring, these rainstorms pose a potential threat; if you think you can rely on them to water your landscapes, you will be disappointed!

A New England summer rain front often produces fairly little water on the ground. Rains are often light and may evaporate before they even reach the ground. When the rains are heavier, they often don’t last long. Heavy rain in a brief period typically produces a high percentage of runoff. The water from such a rain might wet the top couple of inches of soil, but a lot of the water goes into storm drains. Relatively little soaks deeply into the soil near the root zones of trees and shrubs.

What are the implications for our landscape plants?

NEW PLANTS: We cannot rely on Mother Nature to water newly planted trees, shrubs, perennials, or lawns in the summer. It is too easy to kid ourselves that these summer weather fronts will cover for our busy lives – easy, that is, until we are facing plants that are wilting and failing to establish. New plants need an intentional and diligent watering regimen for a full year (except when the ground is frozen for the winter) after their planting – ESPECIALLY in the summer.  If you will be away for part of the summer, you have several tools at your disposal: e.g. tree watering bags such as the Treegator®; mulches that reduce evaporation from the soil; soil humectants such as Hydretain® that make the water in your soil more available to your plants’ roots; and friends, relatives, or hired help who can keep up watering during your absence.

A word about irrigation systems! An irrigation system can sustain your plants or it can kill them. New plants need watering that is:

Deep Enough – to soak into the soil to a depth somewhat below their roots.
Frequent Enough – to keep the roots from going bone dry and dying back between waterings.
Not Too Frequent – so the soil can “breathe” between waterings and roots can exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide as they need to do.
These principles may dictate different watering cycles for trees and shrubs, perennials, lawns, annuals, and for each planter or container. We recommend that you discuss these principles of watering in detail with your irrigation system designer or maintainer. If you believe that a plant may be failing due to water or lack of water, we may be able to recommend adjustments to your watering regimen for that plant.

ESTABLISHED PLANTS: Right now, the spring has left us with water tables in good shape. Unless we see a month or more of high temperatures with no rain, our established plants should be in good shape. There is one caveat, however. During last winters severe cold, some of our established plants may have seen some dieback of fine root mass. If the root mass of a tree or shrub is out of balance with its branches and foliage, the plant may show signs of stress even during our current nurturing weather. In this case, it might be helpful to stimulate some new root growth. The quickest way to do so is with a liquid root stimulant; We use one by Bonide called Plant Starter Concentrate.

We are here to help – so stop in and talk to us!
Michelle and Team Lakeview!