How To Use Your Pump Sprayer To Reach Japanese Beetles In A Tall Crape Myrtle


I had three calls today to let me know that the Japanese beetles had made their appearance. The last message was a text from my good friend Randolph who wanted to know how to get the pesky beetles that were eating up his crape myrtles.

blog jb 7

Japanese beetles in the Southern U.S can wreak havoc on plants such as roses and Crape myrtles. They don’t stay around long but they eat a lot

I started to explain the process to him but then I decided to get my friend Johntheplantman to write an article with pictures. Here’s how you do it.

Ace Hardware sold me a sprayer for around ten dollars. That’s reasonable and it serves my purposes. Here it is:

blog jb 1

An inexpensive pump sprayer. Always clean and rinse the sprayer before using it on plants. Be careful

The most effectivechemical I have found for these beetles is Liquid Sevin, which is an easy to spray version of the old fashioned Sevin dust that has been used by farmers and gardeners for many years. Liquid Sevin is one of the safest insecticides on the market, but be sure to wear eye and face protection when applying it.

blog jb sevin

Liquid Sevin is a relatively safe insecticide and it works on the beetles. Be sure to wear safety glasses and face protection.

Most, but not all, sprayers have an adjustable nozzle similar to the one shown in the picture below. The expensive sprayers have a brass nozzle while some of the other sprayers have strange nozzles that won’t work. Here’s my nozzle:

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nozzle on cheap sprayer. tighten for wide spray, loosen for distance

The nozzle may be twisted to set a spray pattern. Here is a medium spray pattern

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A medium spray pattern

If you tighten the nozzle, the spray pattern becomes finer and wider.

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Tighten the nozzle to increase the fan

And if you loosen the nozzle the spray pattern will become more concentrated and will shoot for a greater distance. I used this spray pattern for a good picture but you may with to experiment and you will find that if it is set “just so,” it will look like a high-powered water gun and shoot 20 feet or more.

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Loosen the nozzle and experiment until you get a long, narrow stream. This will reach way up on the crape myrtle or other tall plants.

So mix the Liquid Sevin according to directions and set your sprayer. (Disclaimer: If You are against the use of this method of control, you may wish to get a Japanese beetle trap. If either of these procedures hurt your sensitivities in any way, I’m so sorry.)

Thanks for visiting John the plant man. Tell your friends or share it on Face Book.


How to mix your own super potting soil

My secret formula for making good potting soil and saving money.

Good, clean potting soil, it’s cheap, and it really works.

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I need to repot some older plants and plant some new ones. I’m going to need a lot of potting soil and potting soil is expensive. I’ve been thinking about it for some time and I’ve figured out how to put together a mix that will do a wonderful job of growing our plants over the coming season. A mix like this is cheaper than buying regular potting soil. I’ll do a cost analysis at the end of the article.

Potting soil is an art form. In 1970 when I got a part time job at a commercial greenhouse, my first job was to mix potting soil. It’s a fun job. I’m still doing it 48 years later. Here’s the secret:

On March 31, I did a bit of shopping. I got some soil conditioner, mushroom compost, peat moss, and lime from Willow Creek Nursery.


peat moss, mushroom compost, soil conditioner, and lime for excellent potting soil

The soil conditioner is a finely ground bark. A two cubic foot bag cost $3.00. I’m sure that there are different brand names and different consistencies everywhere.  I wanted something to make up the bulk of the soil mix that wouldn’t pack, was relatively lightweight, and would remain porous. It also had to be cheap. I dumped a bag into my wheelbarrow:

soil conditioner

A finely ground organic soil conditioner is a good start.

Next I needed something to supply growth organisms and to hold a bit of moisture.

mushroom compost

straight from the mushroom farm. This is good stuff.

Many years ago a man from Tennessee brought me pickup truck loads of wonderful black stuff from a mushroom farm north of Chattanooga. Mushroom growing mix is highly specialized and it can only be used once, so the mushroom farm just threw it away at that time. I got it delivered (I had to help shovel it off the truck) for maybe $40.00. Now it costs right at five dollars for a 40 lb. bag—but it goes a long way.  I dumped in about a third of the bag, pouring a layer of it on top of the soil conditioner.

potting soil mixing

add the ingredients in layers, they will mix more evenly that way

Next is peat moss. I bought a one cubic foot bag for $9.95. I could have saved money by buying a larger bag but I was thinking more like a homeowner and hobbyist. I figure that this will be enough for four large mixes. The peat moss will help to hold moisture and nutrients, and it is relatively light-weight. I have now made three layers of materials in the wheelbarrow.

peat moss in the potting soil

the peat moss is tightly packed and should be broken up and added as a layer

Most organic soil materials are a bit on the acid side and we need to rectify this. I use a bit of pelletized lime to change the pH (acidity balance) toward slightly basic (alkaline).

lime for potting mix

pelletized lime acts quickly to balance the potting soil

This is important for most plants, but if you are using the soil for azaleas or camellias, you may wish to leave the lime out. Some evergreens also prefer an acid soil. I am a firm believer in the positive effects of lime in potting soil. I just spread a bit on top:

adding lime to potting soil mix

spread lime over the potting soil prior to mixing

There are a lot of different time release fertilizers. Osmocote is a good one. These fertilizers are made so that they will break down over a period of several months. I like a fertilizer balance with a high middle number (phosphorous) but sometimes it’s hard to find and in that case a balanced plant food (14-14-14 for instance) will do.

add fertilizer to potting mix

sprinkle time release fertilizer over the potting soil mix

The next step is fun. Mix the concoction thoroughly. It is also good to add some water after it is well mixed and turn it over one more time. This mix looks good, it sounds good, but more importantly, it feels good—and it’s cost effective—a good product at a good price.

mix potting soil with a shovel

The dry ingredients are easy to blend with a shovel or by hand. Then add a bit of water

It was a beautiful day. My wife has been working on some tree-form camellias and I was able to pot up several of them without spending a fortune on potting soil.

camellia planted with home made potting mix

These big pots use a lot of potting soil, but the plants grow well in them

Here’s my cost:

Soil conditioner, $3.00, mushroom compost, $5.00, peat moss, $10.00, lime, $4.00. I bought four bags of the soil conditioner and using the other additives will make up four wheelbarrow mixes. The one wheelbarrow load that I made for this article used one bag of conditioner and ¼ bag of the peat and mushroom compost. The bag of lime will do about 20 mixes. So this mix was $3.00 (conditioner )+ $1.25 (mushroom compost)+ $2.50 (peat moss)—add on a bit for lime and fertilizer and you will have about ten dollars for three cubic feet of some really good potting soil—and you know what’s in it. Compare that with two cubic feet of comparable, prepared potting soil, which would cost you about $15. This type of savings really adds up over the long haul.

Have fun gardening, and share this with your friends,

John Schulz

Another article that may be helpful this spring is about an easy way to apply liquid fertilizer on your plants
















Flowers for Late Winter and Early Spring—part one of a series

I love to watch the progression of winter into spring by noticing the flowers as they appear while the season progresses. This year I kept a photo-log. I was happy to find that even though I’m not well enough organized to keep the dates, the camera is. I started on February 1 with the first daffodil that I saw:

happy February

My morning welcome on February first. Daffodil bulbs should be planted in November

Walking up by the meditation garden I noticed that one of the hybrid Lenten roses (helleboris) had bloomed. February 8

hybrid lenten rose

Hybrid Lenten rose in February. These shade-loving plants may be planted any time of the year. They are evergreen. (helleborus)

On February 12 a flash of red caught my eye and I decided that, even though it is not a flower, it is a source of early color so I have included the nandina berries.


A nandina bush may be planted any time of the year. The berries usually show up around the first of November

The weather this past spring was exceptional and things seemed a bit different in the flower world. In Rome, Georgia, where I live, I’ve noticed over the years that the “tulip magnolia” (magnolia soulangeana) only shows a good bloom every four or five years. The freeze usually gets them—but this year, 2017, I saw this magnificent specimen in bloom on February 14


This magnolia is deciduous (not evergreen) and it blooms in the spring before producing leaves. “Tulip magnolia (Magnolia soulangeana)

A flowering quince at the end of my driveway is somehow still alive after being totally neglected through a drought and bumped repeatedly by my truck bumper. It was in bloom on February 17.


The flowering quince is an easy-to-grow shrub that was probably prized by your great-grandmother. Don’t plant it near a traffic area

Another of the hybrid Lenten rose plants bloomed on 2/23.

hybrid helleboris

There are a lot of varieties of this plant. Some of the new ones can be a bit pricey but they are all lovely–and easy, easy. They love shade.

It had been hanging in there all winter out on the porch but with the coming of warmer weather my prized double orange pansy was showing off on February 24.

double orange

The double orange pansy started showing off as the weather got warmer.

My wife received a nice camera for Christmas and she presented me with a high definition of a beautiful daffodil. I played with it a while and got this composition. February 24

bring your own sunshine

A pretty daffodil for the end of February. photo by Dekie Hicks

My February photos started the month with daffodils and right at the end of the month I took this picture which I titled “spring cluster.” February 26

spring cluster

More daffodils to finish off the month of February. They just make you happy, don’t they?

My wife, Dekie, showed me a plant languishing in the corner of the yard and told me that an old lady had given it to her years ago and that it was special. We dug it up, put it in some good dirt, and gave it some tender loving care. The plant rewarded us with lots of pretty flowers and we were able to identify it as a flowering almond. March 1

flowering almond

Flowering Almond may be grown as a bush or trained as a small tree. It is related to the peach and the cherry

I saw a bright glow of flowers on a protected lorapetalum bush on March 2


Lorapetalum is colorful and easy to grow. It seems to bloom shortly after pruning most of the year.

The red azalea in the back yard showed off on March 3 with a nice grouping of flowers. I knew it was early and I was right. A freeze zapped the blooms a couple of nights later.

azalea morning sun

The first week of March is too early for azalea blooms in north Georgia. Sure enough, the cold zapped the blooms. Oh, Well, maybe next year.

The pansies that I planted in the meditation garden last October were there all along but on March 22 I noticed that they were really going to put on a show. My grower had shown me a new variety of pansies developed for hanging baskets. I thought I would try it on a hill side and I was rewarded with quite a show. March 22

march meditation

The drifts of pansies performed well this year.

I went by to see my friend Marilyn on March 23. Her hillside was covered in the beautiful old-fashioned pink phlox. Now, I would love to know the history of this plant. I know that Marilyn got it from Granmaw Sue but I knew Sue for many years and she was elderly when I met her. Granmaw sue had at least five acres of flowers and she loved to share. Maybe she lives on in the hillside planting. Phlox subulata, March 23

Marilyn's phlox

I used to see this “creeping Phlox all over the rural south. Not so much, now. You have to get it from an old lady to be successful.

Dianthus is one of my favorites. It is pretty hardy and there are so many colorful varieties. I think it is interesting that the dianthus (pinks) is related to the carnation that we are all so familiar with in flower arrangements. I think I planted these dianthus plants in November and they over-wintered very well. April 2

april dianthus

There are many varieties of dianthus. They will tolerate cold but seem to decline in the heat of summer. Then they return in the fall.

A long time ago I lived in a house that had an old, hand dug well in the back yard. The sides of the well had been bricked up and the well was no longer used, but it was a garden accent. A purple oxalis plant languished in the sorry dirt next to the well. It died every winter and then I noticed that in the spring it poked its head back up and tried to grow again. One year I potted some up and treated it right. It rewarded my efforts with a show. April 4

purple oxalis

A hardy perennial, it will withstand much abuse. Needs bright light Some people call its green cousin “shamrock”.

My final offering for this first part of the series is the iris. Now, talk about a survivor, this is it. We had a big stand of iris in the yard and wanted to thin the plants out. I dug them up and piled them up next to the fence where they stayed, neglected, for about two years. Last September I grabbed a shovel full of them and threw them on the side of a hill in the still developing meditation garden. They thanked me for finally paying attention to them. Here they are on April 8

iris and sky

The iris is a survivor and thrives on neglect. It needs dividing periodically, so share with your friends.

Some time in the next two or three weeks I will post another installment of this series. It’s a good activity for a rainy day. Thanks for visiting


Share this with your friends.


5 Steps For An Easy, Accurate Way To Apply Liquid Fertilizer

Follow these instructions for healthier, prettier, happier plants with more flowers.

It’s called a “siphon mixer,” and there are several brand names such as “Syphonex” or “Syphonject.” I have used this device for over forty years and it is perhaps my favorite grower’s tool. The tool fits on the outdoor faucet (hose bib) and pulls fertilizer concentrate out of a bucket at a rate of 15:1. (about 1 tablespoon per gallon of water) I bought my latest siphon injector from Amazon. What I got looked like this:


The easy way to apply liquid fertilizer to your plants.

Here’s how the device is used:

There are many different kinds of water-soluble fertilizers on the market. (I will include a link at the end of this article that will tell you about choosing the right fertilizer). For demonstration purposes, I am using a Miracle Gro product which is readily available at nurseries and big box stores. The fertilizer package contains four pre-measured packets of the fertilizer and I have found that one of these packets will contain just the right amount of fertilizer for a five-gallon bucket.


You will need a water soluble fertilizer.

I use a clean, chemical-free bucket and empty the packet of fertilizer into it. This will make a concentrate. The amount is not totally critical, so if you want less concentrate, only use half of the packet and use only two and a half gallons of water instead of five. At this rate, the fertilizer should provide good results with no danger of fertilizer burn. So, dump in the fertilizer and fill the bucket with water. Stir well


Dump a packet of fertilizer into the five gallon bucket and fill it with water. Stir well

The next step is to hook up the Syphonex as shown in the picture. The end of the plastic tube should extend to the bottom of the bucket. A hose will fit on the siphon device and will deliver the fertilizer solution to your plants.


Siphon attachment ready to work. Turn on the hose and fertilizer water comes out the other end.

One instructional note is that the device restricts the water flow in order to cause suction through the tube. Other restrictions on the delivery hose will cause problems and the system will not work properly. This means that you will not be able to apply the fertilizer through a sprinkler or an adjustable hose nozzle. If you look at the picture at the beginning of the article, you will see that the kit includes a Dramm water breaker that is the proper size to use with the siphon device. This water breaker will fit on the end of your hose or on your “water wand.”

And now comes the fun part. With the water breaker on the end of your hose and the plastic tube from the siphon device sitting in a bucket of fertilizer concentrate, you may turn the water on. After a bit of sputtering while the air is removed from the line, you will see pretty blue fertilizer coming from your hose and ready to apply to your plants.


This is the reason blue dye is added to fertilizer–so the grower can tell if it is mixing into the system.

If you are serious about your plants, I’m sure that you will enjoy one of these tools. I use it on flower beds as well as on potted plants. It helps to get the fertilizer solution all over the leaves, too. This is called “foliar feeding” and it is very good for the plants. Did you know that a plant can take in at least 60% of its nutrient needs through its leaves?  During the growing season, I like to apply liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks.


The siphon feeder pictured at the first of this article was purchased at Amazon. Click Here To Follow The Link

To answer your questions about choosing the right fertilizer, check out this article:  How To Choose The Right Fertilizer


Be sure to share this article with your plant growing friends. They will thank you.


Margot And Grandpa Make a Garden For The Elf Man–A Story

Because Grandpas can’t hear an elf man but a little girl can.

One nice summer day, Margot’s momma and daddy had to go somewhere important. Grandma needed to go to a meeting. Margot’s momma said, “Now, Margot, you and Grandpa can play in the yard together. Please try to keep Grandpa out of trouble.” Grandpa had a funny look on his face.

Grandpa and Margot held hands and walked around, looking at all sorts of nice flowers and a mirror on the fence that looked like a window but it wasn’t.


The two of them planted some flowers in pots. Grandpa asked Margot to water some flowers. He had a watering can that was just her size. Time went by.

watering can

Margot wanted some rocks to play with, so she and Grandpa gathered up some pretty ones from here and there. Margot said, “I want to make a mountain and a road. She put the rocks near the corner of the deck.


Grandpa said, “I think I would like to go inside and have a cup of coffee. Would you like something, Margot?”

“No,” Margot said, “I want to make a mountain for the elf man.”

Grandpa said, “That’s nice, I’m sure he will enjoy it.”

Grandpa went in the house and got his coffee. He thought, “I was told to not leave her alone, but there is a big fence all around the yard and she’s busy playing with rocks. What could go wrong?” He sat down in his chair and picked up his morning paper.

There was a big, loud,
Grandpa said, “AWWWW, Man,” and walked out the door.

Outside, Margot was squatted down, looking under the deck. She was talking very quietly. Grandpa glanced around and that was when he saw that his brand new flower pot had been broken. A rock sat next to the pieces

elfman 1

Grandpa quietly said, “What has happened here? Now who could have done this?”

Margot stood up, looked at grandpa and said, “The elf man did it.”

Grandpa asked, “Where is the elf man?”

“He’s under the deck. I was talking to him. He said he’s sorry he broke your pot. He was trying to make a garden just for him and the rock was too heavy. He’s really sorry and he doesn’t want to get in trouble.”

Grandpa smiled gently and said, “It’s all right. He won’t get in trouble. Elf men are special. We will have to be nice to him.”

Margot smiled and squatted down to look under the deck. “He said it is all right, mister elf man….what? …OK, I’ll tell him.”

She stood up and looked at Grandpa. “He said that he is sad because he doesn’t have a garden to play in.”

Grandpa looked at Margot

He looked down at the space under the deck

He looked at the broken flower pot.

He looked back at Margot, smiled gently, and said, “Then why don’t we make a garden for the elf man?”

Margot jumped up and down and clapped her hands. “Yayy,” she said, “the elf man will be happy.”

Margot watched as Grandpa got a bag of potting soil.

“But Grandpa…” she said, “The flower pot is broken.”

“It’s all right,” said Grandpa, “The elf man left us this rock to fix it with.”

Grandpa put the broken part of the pot inside the pot and propped it up with the rock. It looked like this:

elfman 2

Grandpa put potting soil into the pot and patted it down. He put more potting soil into the pot and mashed it down hard.

elfman 3

“There,” said Grandpa as he finished putting the soil into the broken pot. “Now it will all hold together.”

“I think the elf man will like it,” said Margot.

elfman 4

“But,” said Margot, “but how is the elf man going to get up into his garden?”

Grandpa put his finger up to the side of his head and thought about it. “How about if we put something there for him to climb up on?”

“He would like that,” said Margot.

“Ok,” said Grandpa. Here’s a vine for him to climb up on. It’s called a ‘sedum.’” Grandpa planted it in the pot over the rock.

elfman 5

“Yes,” said Margot, “He can climb up that vine. He will like that.”

Grandpa said, “I guess we will need a tree. I have a nice one, it is called a ‘jade plant.’” The jade plant looked like this:

elfman 6

Margot stood on a stool and helped Grandpa plant the tree. He showed her how to pack the soil around the roots so that it wouldn’t fall over. “oooooh,” said Margot, “now the elf man can climb up into the tree and see all around.”

elfman 7

Grandpa looked at the garden. “Maybe we need to find him a dead tree trunk to sit on and a rock. Would the elf man like that?”

“Oh, yes, elf men love having dead trees to rest on and rocks to climb on.”

So Margot and Grandpa walked around the yard and found just the right dead tree and just the right rock. They put them into the garden in just the right places.

elfman 8

Grandpa and Margot found a couple of other plants to put into the garden. Grandpa said, “the one on the right is called a ‘jewel of the nile,’ the other one is something I picked up at the store. I don’t know it’s name, do you?

Margo said, “I think it’s name is ‘Fred.’”

She helped Grandpa plant the new plants in just the right places

Elfman 9

“There,” said Grandpa. “This is turning into a nice garden for the elf man.”

Margot looked concerned. She glanced up at Grandpa and said, “but, Grandpa, what if he wants to go fishing?”

Grandpa put his hand up to his forehead. “Oh, No,” he said, “How could I have forgotten about how much an elf man loves to fish. What will we do? Wait a minute. I’ll be right back.” Grandpa went into the house and came out with something in his hand. “Look,” he said, “Grandma was going to throw this away. It’s our lucky day.” He had a mirror. “What do you think, Margot? It’s not a real lake, but I think it will do.”

Margot smiled and said, “It’s all right, silly Grandpa. Don’t you know that everything is real to an elf man? If he wants it to be a lake, it will be a lake.”

Grandpa put the mirror into the garden.

elfman 10

“How’s this?” he asked.

Margot studied it from the front. She went around to the other side of the garden and looked. She pointed and said, “I think the elf man would like the lake better if it was back here.” So they moved it

elfman 11

“That’s much better,” said Margot. “Now he can sit under the tree and go fishing. But…”

“I know,” said Grandpa, “It needs grass around it and a rock for him to sit on.”

“Grandpa, sometimes you can be smart.” Said Margot.

They walked around the yard and found some moss that looked just like grass. They put it around the lake.

elfman 12

They found just the right rock for the elf man to sit on and they put it in just the right place. “There,” said Margot. “He is really going to like that.”

elfman 13

“But, Grandpa…He doesn’t have a path to get to the sitting rock and the lake.”

“Oooookaaay,” said Grandpa, “Let’s make him a pathway. We can line it with shiny rocks.”

“Yes, Grandpa. He will like that.”

elfman 14

“Look,” said Grandpa, “I have some aquarium gravel to use for the pathway so the elf man won’t get his feet dirty.” They put the tiny rocks into the pathway and smoothed it out. Margot reached out and walked up the path with her fingers. She smiled.

“It’s easy to walk on, Grandpa. I tried it out. The elf man will like it.”

elfman 16

Margot and Grandpa worked on the garden for a while longer. They got everything just as they thought the elf man would like it. They stepped back and looked at their creation. Grandpa put it near a flower bed. “The elf man will like this,” said Margot.

Margot knelt and peered under the deck. She whispered something, then, after a moment, Grandpa heard her whisper again, “Ok, I’ll tell him.”

She stood up and said, “Grandpa, the elf man wants us to walk around the yard so we won’t see him go to the elf man garden.”

So, Margot and Grandpa walked around the yard for a few minutes. Then they went back to see if the elf man liked his garden. Margot bent over the garden and whispered something. She waited, listening, and then whispered again, “Ok, I’ll tell him.”

“Grandpa, the elf man wants you to move the garden over there.” She pointed. “Oooookaaay,” said Grandpa. He moved the garden.

elfman garden


Later, Margot said, “Grandpa, I know an elf man poem. Would you like to hear it?”

“Yes, Margot, I would,” said Grandpa.

Margot put her hands on her hips, looked up at Grandpa, and said,:

I met a little elf man once
Down where the lilies grow
I asked him why he was so small
And why he did not grow.

He cocked his head
And with his eye
He looked me through and through.
I’m quite as big for me he said
As you are big for you.”

“That’s very good,” said Grandpa. “Now, I think I’ll have some coffee.”

–poem by John Kendrick Bangs–

Landscaping from the Inside Out is Like Putting a Picture on the Wall

A window picture

A window picture

In September I wrote an article titled, “Design a Landscape To Be Seen Through the Living Room Window.” My brother, Tom is a gifted artist and I have had paintings of his on my living room walls for years and years. I think it is fun now that, maybe, I can give him something for his wall. It’s not a picture but it is visible through the living room window.
Back in September, I had sprayed the weeds and set the plants out where they needed to be. Tom’s wife, Sheila, got a person to come and help with the labor a couple of weeks later. The window picture started changing rapidly:

The view changes

The view changes

The plants were installed and cypress chips were spread for an effective and attractive mulch. I like a shredded wood mulch on a hillside, too. It stays in place well and holds other things in place. The mulch also holds moisture well.
I like the way the color of the mulch turned this mountainside front yard into a river-like illusion.

hillside planted and mulched with cypress

hillside planted and mulched with cypress

I had also marked a lot of scrub trees that needed to be removed. I was happy to see a picture of the finished product. Sheila wanted white flowers and the “Emil Moliere” hydrangeas will make quite a show.

The wooded area has been cleaned up and mulched

The wooded area has been cleaned up and mulched

Interactions of Tom and Olive remind me of Christopher Robin and Pooh Bear. Olive remarked that things certainly did look different and that there would be no more worry about Tom having an accident while mowing that steep bank.

"Tom's gonna like this 'cause Ma likes it."

“Tom’s gonna like this ’cause Ma likes it.”

Sheila admires things from the street. All is well. Tom is grinning because of “happy wife, happy life,”

No mowing needed on this hillside.

No mowing needed on this hillside.

Thank you for visiting Johntheplantman

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

The basics of pruning–What Happens When We Prune a Plant


Pruning season is coming up. I wrote this article some time ago in answer to the many questions I receive about pruning. It’s really a very simple process.

Growing a plant is one thing.  Shaping plants well is an art form and adds another dimension to your plant growing experience.  Here is an article that tells you what happens when you prune.  This information applies to just about any kind of shrub or tree.

This jade plant has been worked on for several years.  Time for more pruning

This jade plant has been worked on for several years. Time for more pruning

I am using a jade plant for pictures because the buds show up well.  The jade tree is also really good for an indoor bonsai.

To start with, look at the tip of a stem and notice the small growth bud.  This is called an “apical bud”.

The apical bud

The apical bud

At the side of the stem, just where the leaf comes out, you will find a very small growth bud.   This is called the “lateral bud

New growth will come from the lateral bud

New growth will come from the lateral bud

Here’s how plant growth works.  The growth of the stem and buds is regulated by a group of hormones called “auxin compounds.”  The apical bud is dominant and it draws all of the auxins up past the lateral buds.  This enables the apical bud to develop and causes the lateral buds to remain semi dormant.

removing the apical bud

removing the apical bud

When the apical bud is removed by pruning, the lateral buds in turn become apical buds and start the elongation required for turning into a stem.  In a jade tree, the branching forms as two stalks as in the picture below.

This is how the new growth will come out after pruning

This is how the new growth will come out after pruning

Pruning helps the main trunks to develop and get bigger and stronger; this gives you a stronger and healthier plant.  If you remove the lower leaves and/or growth from the stems, the stems will turn into well defined trunks.  This is the principle behind bonsai, topiaries, and other shaped trees and shrubs.

remove lower leaves to enhance trunk formation

remove lower leaves to enhance trunk formation

I haven’t been there for a long, long time, but I once visited a monastery in Conyers, Georgia that specializes in bonsai.  The priest who was in charge said, “you should prune a tree so that a bird can fly through it.”  I have remembered that concept and I use it a lot as I shape such trees as Japanese maples (click here for an article on pruning Japanese maples).  Here is the picture of the jade tree after the pruning is finished.

All of the tips have been removed and it is time to grow it out.

All of the tips have been removed and it is time to grow it out.

One of my next articles will be “how to start your very own bonsai.”  Keep in touch.

Some rather entertaining adventures of johntheplantman may be found in the book “Requiem for a Redneck” by John P. Schulz. Try the Kindle version


These Garden Weeds Should be Sprayed–Not Pulled—Here’s Why…

Frances walked through her landscape garden with me, pointing out some of her maintenance concerns. She said, “I would like for you to hand-weed this area.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I replied.—Here’s why I said that:

There are a number of weeds that are most pervasive and undesirable in the landscape garden. These plants are so survival oriented that they spread their roots out for quite a distance. When you pull one of them as a weed it will break off from these adventitious roots which will then sprout on their own, coming up all over the place (the more you pull the more you get). If you spray these weeds with a good weed killer they will die, roots and all.

I wrote an earlier article on weed spraying techniques, Click Here: Killing Weeds in the Landscape Garden I am sure that you will find that information helpful.

If left to grow, these vines have the ability to infest and totally destroy your special shrubbery. Here are some of them:

1. Cow itch, (trumpet vine, hummingbird vine)

In the south it's called "cow itch" also trumpet vine or hummingbird vine

In the south it’s called “cow itch” also trumpet vine or hummingbird vine

I loved what Wikipedia said about cow itch:

The vigor of the trumpet vine should not be underestimated. In warm weather, it puts out huge numbers of tendrils that grab onto every available surface, and eventually expand into heavy woody stems several centimeters in diameter. It grows well on arbors, fences, telephone poles, and trees, although it may dismember them in the process. Ruthless pruning is recommended. Outside of its native range this species has the potential to be highly invasive, even as far north as New England. The trumpet vine thrives in many places in southern Canada as well.”

2. Saw briar (smilax)

One of the most difficult weeds to eradicate is the saw briar. The southern Indians used to dig the roots of this plant and eat them like potatoes.

This weed is appropriately named saw brier. More technically, "Smilax"

This weed is appropriately named saw brier. More technically, “Smilax”

3. Poison ivy

I assume that we all know the consequences of pulling this weed. I found it interesting that my Dutch brother-in-law pulled weeds in Tennessee and then flew to Amsterdam. The next day in Holland he broke out in a terrible itchy rash and had to go to the hospital. The doctors in Holland didn’t know what was wrong or how to treat it so they had to call The U.S. You guessed it—poison ivy

The dreaded poison ivy. Here is what it looks like

The dreaded poison ivy. Here is what it looks like

4. Virginia creeper

Virginia creeper is a pretty plant. My Swiss mother-in-law loves the way it looks growing up a wall. Apparently people in the northern U.S. and in some parts of Europe actually cultivate this noxious weed. Grown up the side of a house, this plant will eat out mortar joints and cause wood to rot and fall apart. In the garden it will cover and choke your desirable plants.

Virginia creeper

Virginia creeper

5 Muscadine

In the right place this grape vine is desirable. The fruits make wonderful jellies and wines. However, in the garden it will take over trees and shrubs in a rampant manner while searching for light. Remember, “a weed is a plant that is in the wrong place.”

Muscadine--a wild grape vine that may become a difficult weed

Muscadine–a wild grape vine that may become a difficult weed

6. Honeysuckle

There are some desirable cultivars of this plant but the wild variety can be a nuisance. The blooms do smell good and I have fond memories from my childhood that deal with pulling the bloom apart and sucking on the sweet nectar therein. Now, though, I routinely remove it from azaleas and hollies in people’s yards.

wild honeysuckle

wild honeysuckle

And to finish off this article I am including a picture of the beautiful trumpet flower of the cow itch plant. You can see why it is also called “hummingbird vine.”

"honeysuckle vine" flower. Also called trumpet vine or cow itch

“honeysuckle vine” flower. Also called trumpet vine or cow itch

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Prune Azaleas in May-June. Fertilize Azaleas, Avoid and Kill Poison Ivy

There is a rather old planting of George Tabor azaleas on the side of our driveway and Sweetie has been reminding me relentlessly for months that they need to be pruned and shaped. The last week in May or the first week in June is just the right time for the job. Here’s the “before” picture:

Azaleas at driveway need  pruning

Azaleas at driveway need pruning

There’s a reason for pruning azaleas the first week of June, too. One of my fun mental exercises for years has been to listen to the old people’s comments on growing plants and then to figure out why their techniques work. Please note that Encore azaleas are treated differently.

As for the time to prune azaleas, it’s interesting. In June, the plants have finished blooming and are entering their peak growth stages. The azalea will set its bloom for the following spring in August. The blooms are commonly borne on the growth tips and pruning at the right time increases the number of tips so that you will end up with a more compact plant and many more blooms. You may wish to read my article on Pruning as an Art Form for a concise description of what happens when you prune a plant.

I select a place to cut that is right above shorter new growth

Cut the stem right above smaller new growth buds

Cut the stem right above smaller new growth buds

One of my goals is to open up the plant canopy to allow more light to reach the inside. This will promote lower growth which will strengthen the plant. I try to keep the sides of the plant neat and pretty but I never hesitate to open up a “hole” in the top. New growth will fill this in rather quickly.

prune so that sunlight can reach the inside of the shrub

prune so that sunlight can reach the inside of the shrub

I’m a little over six feet tall and this plant was a bit taller than that. I try to watch for danger when I’m working in overgrown shrubbery and my diligence paid off this time. As I worked, a giant poison ivy vine was sneaking up on me. I saw it just in time and backed up. I planned to approach it slowly and carefully.

poison ivy snuck up on me like a snake but I avoided it

poison ivy snuck up on me like a snake but I avoided it

The only really good way to get rid of poison ivy is to spray it but I don’t want to get any spray on the azalea so I placed a garbage bag over the azalea and carefully moved the poison ivy stem on top of it.

carefully place plastic between the poison ivy and the azalea

carefully place plastic between the poison ivy and the azalea

Using a generic form of Roundup with glyphosphate as the active ingredient, I sprayed the tip of the plant. The chemical will enter the system of the plant and should move on down the stem and kill the roots.

Spray with very low pressure to cover weed but to not get it on the good plant.

Spray with very low pressure to cover weed but to not get it on the good plant.

This is a good time to fertilize the azaleas, also. I grabbed a bag of azalea fertilizer at my local nursery. The analysis is 9-15-13 with the addition of iron, copper, manganese, and zinc. If you don’t know about fertilizer labels, they are explained in my article “Choosing the Right Fertilizer”

azalea fertilizer

azalea fertilizer

And here’s the “after” picture. Remember what I always say—“Happy Wife, Happy Life.” Now she will be free to find something else to remind me to do.

Azaleas pruned "just right"--Happy Wife, Happy Life"

Azaleas pruned “just right”–Happy Wife, Happy Life”

Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman. Tell your friends about it. One other good thing to do in June is to build a really neat sprinkler. Click Here for Directions

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Make a Beautiful Mixed Flower Creation With a Wire Basket and Coconut Fiber Matting.

Use coconut matting to line a wire hanging basket for mixed flowers. Read on

Use coconut matting to line a wire hanging basket for mixed flowers. Read on

I call it “coco mat” and it is one of the nicest innovations for planting wire hanging baskets to come along in a long time. Wire baskets are wonderful because they “breathe” and thereby form the base for more vigorous flowers. Wire baskets come in all shapes and sizes. I needed to plant eleven hand-crafted wrought-iron baskets the other day.

If you are planting in mass manufactured wire containers, your nursery will probably carry coco mat liners that are formed to fit. In my case, I had to custom cut each piece. So I bought a roll of the matting and I got a roll of painter’s paper with which to make patterns.

You can usually find pre-formed matting for your baskets but sometimes you just have to cut your own,

You can usually find pre-formed matting for your baskets but sometimes you just have to cut your own,

We didn’t want to waste any of the coco mat so we wrapped the basket with the paper and cut out around it.

Wrap paper around the wire basket and trim to make a pattern

Wrap paper around the wire basket and trim to make a pattern

I found that a carpenter’s pencil or a magic marker would work to trace the pattern onto the coco mat.

a carpenter's pencil or magic marker will mark the mat for cutting

a carpenter’s pencil or magic marker will mark the mat for cutting

I thought about using a razor knife but found that scissors would do the job.  Tip—use cheap scissors and throw them away afterwards. This will probably ruin your good scissors.

Do not use Momma's expensive scissors for this job--go buy some cheap ones

Do not use Momma’s expensive scissors for this job–go buy some cheap ones

We cut a triangle out of the circle where a big fold would be and then we pushed the liner down into the basket and pressed moist potting soil in to hold it in place. A little extra trimming was necessary.

Pack in moist potting soil to hold the coconut fiber mat securely in place

Pack in moist potting soil to hold the coconut fiber mat securely in place

I always like to add a liberal sprinkling of time-release fertilizer on top of the potting soil so that it will mix in as I plant. I’m using Osmocote this time.

add Osmocote to the hanging basket for season-long fertilizing

add Osmocote to the hanging basket for season-long fertilizing

I decided to use Dragon Wing begonias for the center plant. These plants are very versatile and I really get good results from them.

A dragon wing begonia will be beautiful in the center of this hanging basket

A dragon wing begonia will be beautiful in the center of this hanging basket

I used two colors of calibrochoa (they look like miniature petunias), bachopa (trailing with small white flowers), and Wave petunias around the large begonia. I really enjoy making a royal mess and this time I succeeded.

A good planting job calls for a good mess.

A good planting job calls for a good mess.

The baskets will hang from the eaves of the house facing the pool and courtyard. In the picture below you will see that I am using chains to train a white mandevilla up and over a doorway.

wire hanging basket with mixed flowers planted above a white  mandevilla.

wire hanging basket with mixed flowers planted above a white mandevilla.

The most important consideration in choosing plants for a mixed planting is that all of the varieties must have the same sun or shade preferences.  You may wish to visit some articles I wrote about planting other mixtures, CLICK HERE for articles on mixed plantings.



As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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