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Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club 2014 Newsletter

 May's Gardening Chores


It's May, so keep your eyes open; enjoy the garden but watch out for possible problems. Think prevention this spring; ask questions--NOW--about the problems you had last year before they possibly return. If you're planting something new--and you should--ask about the plant you selected and how to care for it. Things happen fast in your garden, some good and some not so good. Stay on top of things, enjoy the ride, and don't be scared to ask for help. Remember NO gardening question is DUMB!

This week, I want you to get out the peony cages and get them in place to prevent possible damage, as the flowers develop they will be large and heavy. A good rain and wind could destroy all your hard work and shorten your enjoyment. If you're purchasing your first peony plants, invest in the inexpensive wire hoops to help hold up the flowers; it will be money well spent. When the peonies finish flowering, move the cages to the delphiniums and when the delphiniums are finished, use them on your fall mums or asters.

Always plant peonies shallow, because they will not flower if you do not. Dig in the soil near the stem of the plant with your finger. You should be able to feel the crown of the plant in the ground at a depth of one knuckle of your finger--anything deeper means no flower. Next, if your flower buds form and turn black and dry up there are two possibilities for this problem. If just the buds dry up, you need the common ant in your garden to eat the soft waxy film that grows on the bud to protect it against the dry wind and sun. As the ants eat the waxy film, the bud expands and grows larger--eventually flowering. To get ants on the flower bud, take a tablespoon of grape jelly, cover the buds with it, and then dump the rest on the ground around the plant. The smell of the grape jelly will draw them to your plant; they will clean the buds for you and flowers will form. Keep all insecticides away from the plant during this process so as not to hurt the ants. If the bud and the first leaf turn black, you have a disease that has hit the plant. Use a good fungicide like copper or Serenade Organic Fungicide as soon as you notice the buds forming on the plant.

Sunday, I started to notices small tents of webbing in the trees, a sure sign that the tent caterpillars are arriving now. If you are able to break the netting with your garden hose water pressure or a long pole, the caterpillars will have nowhere to hide during wet weather and will all die when they get wet and cold. If that does not work, use the new natural insecticide called Spinosad from Fertilome or Captain Jack from Bonide. It will do the trick and will quickly kill them without hurting beneficial insects or the birds; it's also great for all caterpillar insects--even in the vegetable garden. Again. It's all natural and a disease of caterpillar type insects like the old B.T. product--but much more effective, especially on the larger and more mature caterpillars.

Daylilies and hostas are beginning to grow now, and this is a great time to dig them up and divide the large clumps into smaller clumps. If you do it now, it will not affect the flower production of the plant for the summer months, and the new clumps will double their size by the end of the summer. Be sure to plant them at the same depth they were before you dug them and condition the soil with compost or animal manure before planting them in their new home. When you divide perennials or move plants around the garden in the spring, use a new fertilizer called "Thrive." I have been talking about this product with Mycorrhizae in it for the past couple of years. Your root system will double in size in just a month, transplant shock will be little to none and the new roots the plant develops will be incredible, helping your plants quickly get established before the heat of summer arrives. This is new technology at its best, and you will have more flowers on young plants when it's used at the time of planting because of the faster growing root system.

If you have ornamental grasses it is now time to cut them back to 12 inches from the ground. By removing the old dead growth from last season now, you will encourage the new foliage to develop faster and the new growth will look much nicer with the old growth removed. If the clump of ornamental grass has grown large, this is also the best time of the year to dig it up and divide it into smaller clumps. Dig up the entire clump and get as many roots as possible, shake off as much soil as possible so you can see the roots and then split the clump with a garden spade or hatchet. What you want is a clump about 4 to 6 inches in diameter; the splitting is best done when the clump is laid on its side so you can divide easily with lots of roots. Condition the soil with compost and manure before planting and keep the new plans moist until you start to see the new grass develop.

Hydrangeas can be pruned at this time if the plant has begun to make new growth. If your plant grew tall and fell over last summer, you can cut back the individual stems back by as much as 1/3 to 1/2, as long as there are new buds below the cut you will be making. I always leave 3 to 4 sets of buds on each stem to insure flowers for the summer months. All dead stems should be removed and the plant should also be fertilized with Plant-Tone fertilizer for a wonderful 3 to 4 month slow feeding. Your blue hydrangea should also be fertilized with the new Blue Hydrangeas soil conditioner that will improve the color of the flowers and keep them nice and blue during the summer. For pink hydrangeas, be sure to add limestone, wood ash or Magic-Cal to keep the color pink or the acidity in the soil will change the plant color to blue. Add 3 inches of mulch around the plant to hold moisture during summer heat.

Broadleaf weeds are in their glory right now--and no matter how well-kept your lawn the dandelions (these are the king of lawn weeds) will pop up. If you're using a combination fertilizer and broadleaf weed killer, be sure the grass is wet before applying it to the lawn so the product can stick to the foliage and do a better job. Also, be sure that your lawn sprinkler is off and no rain is predicted for at least 24 hours after you apply the product to give the week killer time to move into the plant and destroy it. If you just planted grass seed, this cannot be done until the fall or the weed killer will hurt the new sprouting grass plants. Liquid broadleaf weed killers like Weed Beater Ultra from Bonide can also be applied at this time, but be careful when applying near ground covers. Only apply when the weather is calm and--like the powder type-- when there will be no rain for 24 plus hours. Tough weeds like violets, creeping Charlie and ajuga will need a second application of Weed Beater Ultra in 7 days to destroy these strong weeds completely.

Bring out the birdbath and give it a good wash before you fill it up with water. As the birds arrive to your yard, they will appreciate a good drink and wash in their summer home--your yard. Keep the feeders filled with fresh seed and the suet feeder also. If you have a birdhouse, be sure to clean it out to keep the new tenants healthy and problem free. If you have young children, have them cut up some old yarn into 12-inch long pieces and scatter them on the ground near the feeders and birdbath to help the birds make a better nest. Also, bring out the patio furniture so you can enjoy your yard, sit back, and relax for a moment as the yard begins to take shape. It's never too early to start the grill and enjoy a hot dog or burger after a hard day's work in the yard and garden. The winter is over, so enjoy your yard and garden.


Louis Armstrong - What A Wonderful World (Spoken Intro Version) 1970
Louis Armstrong - What A Wonderful World (Spoken Intro Version) 1970
Insects due to arrive in May.  Be prepared! 

Because of the colder than normal weather this spring, I have a few more things that you should be aware of that must be done on schedule--the sooner the better. We are about 2 to 3 weeks behind schedule right now.

#1 In the perennial garden, it is time now to treat the soil around your hybrid lily bulbs for that red beetle called the Asiatic lily beetle. This insect pest is a major problem with your hybrid lilies--and they are now beginning to arrive on your plants. They start as a small red, rectangular beetle that will eat holes in the foliage of the young plants. Soon they will lay rows of yellow eggs on the underside of the lilies' leaves--look for them, and if you see them, pull off the leaf and destroy it.

These eggs will hatch creating a slug-like creature that is covered with a black film--actually "poop"--as protection against predators while it feeds on your lilies' foliage. In time, it will turn into the red lily beetle and start the process all over again. As the foliage is eaten, the beetle will also dig a hole into the stem of the lily and eat his way down to the bulb and destroy it. The only product to stop this insect is called "Tree and Shrub" and is available at your local garden center. Mix one ounce of the product per gallon of water and apply over the plant and soaking the foliage and the soil around the roots. I use a quart of the mixture for a clump of 3 to 5 bulbs and the product will protect the plant for the entire year; other products only last for a month, not long enough. Go to for more information.

#2 If you have Canadian hemlocks, I want you to check them over really good, especially on the tips of the branches, for a white cottony-looking growth on the underside of the needles. This is an insect called the "wooly adelgid" and this pest must be treated right now or you could lose your hemlocks in just 3 years--even trees with a trunk up to a foot in diameter and 50 feet tall. The wooly adelgid is laying eggs now and will soon begin to suck the energy out of your tree, quickly killing entire branches of your tree. The tree does not have to be sprayed, a real good thing for large trees! Just mix the product according to the directions and pour the mixture around the base of the tree trunk and the roots will take the product to the problem and protect it for the entire year. Use Tree and Shrub insecticide as it is the only product that will do the job systemically without spraying. You can do this yourself and save hundreds of dollars without hiring someone to do it for you. Look for the new generic Tree and Shrub made by Bonide at or and save up to half the cost on the product, especially if you need large quantities of it.

#3 Ticks are beginning to appear in the lawn and around your garden. The best way to control them is to kill them on the host--the mice that live around your home. Ticks begin their life on the common mouse that lives in the woods, tall grass, under your tool shed or even in the stone wall on your property. If you have children, pets or you spend a lot of time in the yard and are noticing ticks--it's time to use the wonderful and safe product called Dammanix Tick Tubes. The product is a cardboard tube like a paper towel tube filled with cotton and a mild pesticide called permethrin. All you have to do is place the tubes under the tool shed, near a stone wall in the tall grass or in a wooded area--and the mice will do the rest. They will collect the cotton from the tubes and use it as bedding.

As the ticks begin to mature on the mice, they will come in contact with the insecticide and die, preventing them from developing potential problems like Lyme disease. The product is approved by the EPA, and it is environmentally friendly, because you're not treating all the grass area on your property with pesticides, just targeting the host--the mouse. It proven effective, safe--and it works. Check out their website at for more information and destroy the ticks before they have a chance to create a problem this year.


#4 Because of the cold and snowy winter you can treat your lawn with the traditional soil pesticides or, if you want to stay organic, look for the new Canadian-raised soil nematodes. Nematodes are microscopic creatures that we have in our soil right now but the winter weather kills many of them off with the cold. These creatures will feed on soil insects like the Japanese and Asiatic beetle grubs living in your lawn and garden--and they won't hurt the earth worms.

The Canadian Company is called "Environmental Factor," and it has developed nematodes that are more cold-tolerant; they are able to raise them in large quantities and place them in a hibernation stage until you apply them to your lawn and garden. Most other companies who sell nematodes package them and these nematodes must be applied to the lawn in a 30 day period or they will die. But Environmental Factor has developed new way to keep them dormant longer, and also keeps their product refrigerated at all times, so your local garden center will have them in a small refrigerator supplied by the company to guarantee freshness and results. This product works fast and you get results in weeks, not months or years like other products that cause a disease of grubs (like milky spore), and it is more effective. If you have ever seen the TV show "Shark Tank," this company is working with a Canadian version of the Shark Tank in Canada--a big honor when you are chosen. Go to for more information and a dealer near you.


#5 Now that your spring flowering bulbs are beginning to go by, be sure to remove the faded flowers (but NOT the foliage) so the plant does not use its energy to make useless seeds and instead uses that energy to make a stronger bulb and flower buds for next year. Now is the time to also feed them with a good organic slow-release bulb fertilizer like Dr. Earth Bulb food with Pro Biotic or Espoma Bulb-Tone. You can remove the foliage in 4 to 6 weeks, so the plant can have time to rebuild its natural energy for next year.

#6 Now is time to fertilize your roses and perennials to help promote new growth and flower production. They should be fertilized every 4 to 6 weeks to keep them productive. Bark mulch around the plants will help them to stay weed-free all summer long and they'll better able to retain soil moisture as the hot days of summer arrive. Check the foliage often to stay ahead of insect and foliage disease problems. If you have questions or problem with the plants, call your local garden center for advice--don't wait this year, stop the problem early before it gets out of control. Now is also the best time to plant new roses--while the weather is cool and the selection is numerous. Fancy or new varieties always go first, so pick your plants while the selection is good. If the plant is new to you, ask questions about the plant to make sure it's right for you. Now get to work--it's spring and the time is right to do these things in your yard!



Your job as a gardener is to try to keep things running smoothly for the plants and animals that live in or visit your yard, whatever the weather decides to do.

Ruth Shaw Ernst 

Tomato-Asparagus Salad


1/3 cup  Italian Dressing
2 green onions, sliced
1 tsp.  zest and 2 Tbsp. juice from 1 lemon
2 large  tomatoes, thinly sliced
3/4 lb.  fresh asparagus spears (about 18), trimmed, cooked until crisp-tender
1/4 cup  Shredded Low-Moisture Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese
2 Tbsp.  chopped fresh parsley

Make It

MIX dressing, onions, zest and juice until well blended.

ARRANGE tomatoes and asparagus on platter; drizzle with dressing mixture.

TOP with cheese and parsley.

Chill until serving

 Kitchens Tips

How to Cook Fresh Asparagus
Place asparagus in 2-qt. microwaveable casserole. Add 1/3 cup water; cover with lid. Microwave on HIGH 4 to 5 min. or until crisp-tender. Drain well before using as desired.
Trimming Fresh Asparagus
Asparagus spears snap off naturally where they are tough. Simply bend the spear near the bottom end and it will break off at the right point. Or, remove an inch or so of the "woody" portion off the bottom of the stalks with a sharp knife.

Traveling with the Paul Parent Garden Club

Join The Paul Parent Garden Club for The Grand Tour Of France July 31 through August 12, 2014. With special 70th Anniversary tours of the Beaches of Normandy and Monet's Garden.


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