dishin' the DIRT on hit and myth landscaping

Archive for the tag “weed and feed”

Best fertilizer? Holy crap, BATMAN!

We’ve put in some new plants this spring and wondered what type of fertilizer you’d recommend.

Depends. What type of plants? What type of soil?  The best fertilizer for all plants and all soil types is rich soil. Don’t have that yet? Here’s my favorite fertility Rxs for the plantings here in my Texas garden. Here goes:

Crap happens. And when it does, let it rot and put it on your garden!

Crap happens. And when it does, let it rot and put it on your garden. Great soil is the best fertilizer for ANY plant!

ALL: Add 1-2″ composted manure over the whole landscape at least once per year. I try to do this Valentine’s Day. Why Valentine’s Day? It’s important this process occurs in cool months so plants or lawn won’t burn. The other reason for that date is I can remember it…fertility & Valentine’s go hand-in-hand…. or, well, you get the idea. For how long? I plan to stop with my annual cupid compost ceremony when I die, move, or my soil morphs into a rich loam yielding not only great produce, but also a shovel full of earthworms every time I effortlessly dig a hole. By the way, this is NOT mulch; it’s besides and underneath a spring application of mulch.

Osmaco&MedinaVEGGIES, FLOWERS, ETC. – Used as a foliar spray or poured-on soil activator, I keep a jug of Medina’s MEDINA PLUS  handy for monthly after-planting-pep-ups. This is also what I put into my compost to heat it up.

My double compost tumbler also boasts a spigot and container on bottom for an easy compost tea treat.

My double compost tumbler also boasts a spigot and container on bottom for an easy compost tea treat.

Speaking of which,  COMPOST TEA is a cheap – as in FREE – fertilizer. At my house, making compost tea is easy because of the composter I use: a double barrel tumbler with tea spout in the bottom. Never heard of compost tea? Here’s how to make it happen.

A local company (in Houston) called MICROLIFE has come up with great all-around organic fertilizers in several formulations for the different applications in the garden. They also have specialty formulations for specific plants, like azaleas and citrus, as well as for problems in the lawn, like brown patch. Their nifty online chart tells you what to use and when. I buy MicroLife by the 40 lb. bag, I’m such a fan.

When I tuck in just about any flowering/fruiting plant, I often add a dash of Osmocote for Flowers & Vegetables. This slow release, balanced (14-14-14) formula feeds the babies without burning or giving too much nitrogen (the 1st number in the 3 part formulation numbers, N-P-K), which makes it develop gorgeous green but few flowers. NEVER use lawn fertilizer in flowerbeds with blooming plants or they’ll spend all of their energy on the leaves and none on the blooms.

Another commonly used fertilizer that has no place in my garden is a “weed and feed” product. I absolutely hate these for many reasons, only one of which is how destructive it can be to plants other than lawn grasses. So if you have a grudge against me, you now know the chink in my armor!

NOTE: I am not paid, nor do I receive these products to endorse. I buy them at my local garden center just like you will.


Trees Need Extra Love in a Drought

We just bought a new house and it was empty for some time.  I use my irrigation system a couple of times a week, but should I water my mature trees more than that this summer? (pecans, oaks)  We haven’t had much rain for the last 6 months.   Anthony S.

Most of the nation seems to be in feast (flood) or famine (drought) mode, doesn’t it?  While hard on people, too little or too much water is devastating for plants that cannot escape their environment.

If you have a rain gauge – which I STRONGLY RECOMMEND – you’ll know exactly how much natural rainfall has occurred and whether or not supplemental water is warranted.  Depending on the tree’s age/size and variety,  you might need to apply more water several times during the growing season to keep it healthy.  If the drought continues, consider a regular schedule for watering your trees.  Texas A&M University offers insight into tree care through their EARTHKIND® website, giving a number of tools to both prevent and curtail damage to your landscape due to lack of rain.  Here are some of their suggestions, along with some of my own.

  1. Look to your trees to tell you they are thirsty.  Premature foliage yellowing and/or leaf loss over the whole tree, leaf margin (outside edge) burns and curling, and eventually loss of canopy beginning with the inner, lower branches.  How do you save a dead tree?  You don’t, so watch for early cries for help.
    Drought-stressed elm tree (from Austin American Statesman)
  2. Remove grass and weeds under trees –  which compete for available water – and replace with mulch.
  3. Do NOT use fertilizer on drought stressed plants.  Encouraging new growth is the last thing they need.  And NEVER use weed ‘n’ feed products near trees.  (I suggest there is no reason to use these products at all!)
  4. Know what kind of trees you have and then treat them according to their needs.  (The Smithsonian released a NEW APP for that – LEAFSNAP. Don’t depend on it, though.  It is still a work in progress….) Just as with people, each variety of tree has specific requirements.  Your mature pecan will require a significant amount of water, but certain oak trees (like bur oak) need less than others (like water oaks).
    HIT: 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter for each watering. Measure trunk diameter at knee height. General formula: Tree Diameter x 5 minutes = Total Watering Time. from City of Boulder, CO
  5. A soaker hose set out under the ENTIRE canopy of the your mature trees is the most efficient way to water deeply.  Watering only at the trunk not only doesn’t help, it could HURT your tree, encouraging a fungal infection where the water sits.  (I’d add you might want to see exactly how much water is coming out of the hose. Put a tuna can under a section … long does it take to get an inch of water standing in the can?  For you engineer types, here is a WEBSITE that helps you convert the inches to gallons, the most common measurement.)
    6.  If you are planting a new tree in your landscape, GO NATIVE!  You will save precious resources – including water and YOUR TIME – if you install a variety that already will feel at home at yours.
    Whether a plethora of patio plants in pots, an oversized orchard or a standard suburban site, know what plants you have and what their preferences are in order to help them THRIVE in any weather.  Plants are integral to OUR health, but they depend on YOU to keep them healthy!

    MYTH: SOAK YOUR TREE’S TRUNK – against the trunk only, a soaker hose can cause more harm than good!


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