Tag Archives: Garden

Cedar Valley Home & Garden Article Going native: Start your own wildflower garden from scratch

Going native: Start your own wildflower garden from scratch

The coneflower is a given when compiling lists of popular wildflowers.

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This prairie plant is beloved for its easy-going nature and long-lasting daisy-like blossoms blooms. It attracts bees, butterflies and other insects into the garden, and it’s fun to watch goldfinches dangling upside down dining on seeds plucked from spent heads.

Narrow-leafed purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia) is an Iowa native, along with pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida) and purple conflower (Echinacea purpurea). A few areas of Iowa, mostly on our western edge, you’ll find the yellow prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera) and the grey-headed prairie coneflower (Ratibida pinnata).

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Black-eyed and brown-eyed Susans are prized, along with columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) with its cheerful red and yellow nodding blooms, wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) and butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). New England aster (Symphyotricum novae-angliae, previously Aster novae-angliae) is among my personal favorites, and the first type of aster I ever planted. Monarchs passing through my fall garden find it a valuable source of nectar (and a landing pad to rest).

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Search out a source for high-quality seeds and plants that are suited to your growing conditions — location, soil type, sun exposure, etc. The National Garden Bureau, which has declared 2013 the “Year of the Wildflower,” also suggests tracking down fact sheets and publications geared toward your geographic region, such as the Xerces Society (www.xerces.org) and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s extensive database that can be searched by state (www.wildflower.org). Iowa State University Extension also has good resources for wildflower information.

To create your own wildflower garden, follow these NGB suggestions:

1. Prepare the soil by removing weeds and other unwanted vegetation. If the soil is compacted, till lightly so the soil is loose and germinating seeds can put down roots. A bow rake is great for loosening the top layer of soil. Digging or roto-tilling too deep will bring up weed seeds and other plants that will need to be removed later to avoid competing with the wildflower seeds. While it may not be practical or necessary to amend the soil before planting wildflowers, you can add organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure before planting depending on the site.

2. Wildflower seed and seed mixes can be planted in either spring or fall. Spring rains help seeds germinate and plants get established before many weeds have a chance to grow. In cold climates, a dormant seeding of wildflowers can be done in the fall when temperatures are low enough that seed will not germinate until weather warms up the following spring, similar to what happens in nature. Some seeds, especially many of our native perennial wildflower species, need a chilling period to break their dormancy. This is provided naturally by the change in temperatures from winter into spring.

3. Scatter seeds by hand or with a small spreader. Seeds can be raked into the soil or lightly covered with soil. Water thoroughly right after planting and keep seeds and seedlings moist for about 4-6 weeks. Gradually reduce watering as seedlings develop. Identify and remove weed seedlings as soon as possible since they will compete with wildflowers for water, nutrients and space. For dormant seeding, watering after planting seeds is not necessary.

Care & feeding

Annual flowers are more abundant at first because they grow and flower quickly. Perennial plants will follow and eventually become established; many annual and perennial plants may reseed themselves.

Year one: Not all seeds will germinate right away, especially perennial wildflowers. Don’t be disappointed if there is no “instant” meadow. For more immediate results combine seeding wildflowers with planting a few container-grown plants. Plants will quickly get established and compete with weeds that may appear.

Identify and remove weeds when small to prevent spreading. Wildflowers may need additional water if rainfall is sparse, especially during extended heat spells. Avoid cutting flowers so they can seed and fill in the garden next year.

Year two: You’ll see new plants from seed that didn’t germinate the first year. Water if rainfall is inadequate, especially in spring or hot we ather. Remove weeds as they appear. As flowers become established, weeding will lessen. Fill in bare spots with seed or container-grown plants.

Year three and beyond: Minimal maintenance; remove weeds that may move in. Move plants that are too close or overcrowded and use them to fill in bare spots or sow more seeds. You may need to water if there is an extended period of heat. Fertilizing is generally not required.

In the garden setting, you can mulch around plants with compost or well-rotted manure. Mowing or cutting wildflowers to about 6 inches high will spread seeds and keep the garden looking neat. You can dig or rake the soil to regenerate a wildflower garden by improving contact between soil and seeds that have dropped to the ground.

Article Taken From Cedar Valley Home & Garden Website

To Purchase Native Wildflowers & Prairie Plants Visit Our Website at Ion Exchange, Inc.

 

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Garden Myths & Facts Article By Horticultural Professionals

Two horticultural professionals took some of the most popular garden myths into the university laboratory to prove or disprove the accuracy of these myths. Dr. Linda Chalked-Scott from Washington State University and Dr. Jeff Gilliam from the University of Minnesota tested these myths under controlled conditions to determine if they really work.

The Myth
For years we’ve been told that if we water plants on a hot sunny day the sun reflecting through the water droplets will burn the foliage.

The Facts

We are constantly being warned in books, magazines, and various websites that if we water on a sunny day we will burn the leaves. The premise behind this is the water drops that accumulate on the leaf surfaces act as tiny magnifying glasses, focusing the sun’s energy into intense beams that burn leaves. We’re told that since water conducts heat, wet leaf surfaces are more likely to burn than dry ones. This is one of those myths that refuse to die. Although most of the university web sites dispel this myth, hundreds of other web sites keep the misinformation alive.

If your plants are showing signs of water stress in the middle of the day, by all means you should water them!

Delaying irrigation until the evening (not a good time to water anyway, as this can encourage fungal diseases or the following morning could damage your plants and open them up to diseases.

There are many causes of leaf scorch, but irrigation with fresh water is certainly not one of them.

So remember:

Wet foliage is not susceptible to sunburn

Analyze site conditions to ensure optimal root and shoot health and prevent drought problems

Any time plants exhibit drought stress symptoms is the time to water them

Ideal watering time is in the early morning; watering during the day increases evaporative losses, and evening watering regimes can encourage establishment of some fungal diseases

Do not overuse fertilizers and pesticides, especially those containing sodium or other salts

If using recycled or gray water, consider running the water through a filtering system before applying it to plants.

The Myth

Using nursery tags is an accurate method to determine a plant’s final size.

The Facts

Fall is the ideal time to plant trees and shrubs. Selection can be a tricky practice, especially when site conditions limit size of plantings. Small landscapes require small-scale plantings.

At the nursery, one can be overwhelmed by the variety of deciduous trees and conifers, and even within a species there may be several cultivars from which to choose.

Without any prior knowledge of these plants, gardeners resort to nursery tags to determine mature heights and widths. Armed with this information, one can select those trees and shrubs whose size is appropriate to the site. But does this approach really work?

Many factors determine the mature size of any tree or shrub. The most obvious on plant size is genetic makeup – you only have to look at cultivar names like ‘Midget’ or ‘Giant Candles’ to understand this component.

Geographic location also plays a role in determining height. For instance, trees tend to grow taller in areas where temperatures are more moderate; trees in coastal areas are generally larger than these same species in more interior regions. Within a geographic area, local climate will further influence final size: rainfall and temperature can vary widely within a region. The microclimate of a site will influence tree size due to differences in environmental factors such as drainage, and soil type.

Competition for water, light, and nutrients, will affect not only growth rate but final height as well.

1.  Nursery tags most likely contain species information relevant to that nursery’s geographic location
2.  Genetics, geography, climate, and plant competition will all influence the maximum height any specimen will obtain
3.  To determine the most likely height range for a tree in your landscape, observe how that species performs elsewhere in your area
4.  If no local landscape specimens exist for a particular plant, look to the internet for plant performance information from similar climates elsewhere in the world.

The Myth

Landscape fabric provides permanent weed control for landscapes

The Facts

Concern over the use of herbicides has caused landscape professionals and gardeners to look closely at non-chemical methods of weed control. Mulches are increasing in popularity as weed control measures and have a number of additional benefits, including water retention and soil protection. Mulches may be organic, inorganic, or synthetic. Synthetic mulches, including geotextiles, are of interest to many consumers and professionals because they are perceived as nonbiodegradable, permanent solutions to weed control.

Developed for agricultural use, geotextiles have found their way into ornamental gardens as landscape fabrics. These fabrics, a vast improvement over the impermeable black plastics still (unfortunately) used for weed control, are woven in such a way that water and gas exchange can occur but light penetration is significantly reduced. Hence, they are effective in reducing weed seed germination in areas where soil disturbance would otherwise induce germination of weeds. Such fabrics have been so effective in reducing weeds in vegetable and ornamental crop production that they have been applied to more permanent landscape installations.

Like the dieter searching for a permanent weight loss pill, so we as gardeners continue to seek permanent weed control solutions. Unfortunately, there is no such permanent fix.

We must remain ever vigilant in our battle with weeds and cannot rely on a product to do this. The fact is that weed control fabrics are not permanent and will decompose, especially when exposed to sunlight.

For permanent landscapes, they are not a long term solution and in fact can hinder landscape plant health.

Some of these facts are listed below.

Any organic matter or soil on top of the fabrics will hasten their colonization by weeds; this precludes covering the fabric with anything but inoert mulch like pebbles. It also requires continual maintenance to keep the fabric free of debris. Weeds will eventually grow on top of and through these fabrics, making their removal difficult.
Geotextiles degrade in the landscape in as little as one year if unprotected from sunlight.
The aesthetic quality of landscape fabrics is minimal; it becomes worse as the materials begin to degrade.
Personally I had a situation where field bindweed grew some 25 feet under landscape fabric before emerging at the edge of the bed, seeking sunlight.

In closing, I expect some of you might disagree with some of these findings. However remember that this research was done in reputable university labs under controlled conditions. Each of us will draw our own conclusions.

Article Taken From Dave’s Garden Website
By Paul Rodman
October 29, 2012

To Purchase Your Native Wildflowers & Prairie Plants Visit Our Website at Ion Exchange, Inc.

Email:  hbright@acegroup.cc

Phone:  800-291-2143

‘Prairie Therapy’ Soothes Psychiatrist, Autistic Son Article

When psychiatrist Elizabeth Reeve needs to unwind and recharge her mental batteries, she heads to the prairie.

Not the wild prairie, but the one she and her husband have painstakingly restored at their weekend home in southeastern Minnesota.

“It’s therapeutic — an opportunity to get outside and think in a different way,” she said.

She loves walking its five gently rolling acres and seeing what’s blooming and growing.

The prairie helps Reeve maintain the balance she needs to juggle a very full life. In addition to her practice, which focuses on autism and other developmental disabilities, she recently was named Minnesota’s Psychiatrist of the Year by her peers and published a book, a survival guide for kids with autism spectrum disorders and their parents.

It’s a subject Reeve knows not just clinically but personally, from raising an autistic son herself. Born during her residency, he’s now 24 and lives at home.

“Having a disabled adult child changes your perspective — it changes the whole plan,” Reeve said.

In a way, that changed plan helped lead Reeve’s family to the prairie. “We were looking for land to build on when we retired,” she said. “My son doesn’t drive. He has to live in an urban environment because he takes the bus. The long-term plan is he’ll have the house (in Minneapolis) and we’ll retire down here.”

Reeve and her husband, Mark Conway, alpine-ski-racing coach for the Minneapolis school district, were driving in the rural area when they saw a “for sale” sign. They liked the 1995-built house with its post-and-beam construction, and the 20 wooded acres surrounding it. The previous owner, who built the house, had already started a prairie restoration on what used to be a cornfield.

Reeve, an avid gardener, and Conway decided to buy the land and continue the restoration. Their work includes “burns,” torching the landscape to eliminate non-native plants. “The natives have deep roots; they’ll come back, but the noxious weeds are superficial,” Reeve said.

“You need a crew, so it doesn’t get out of control,” Reeve said. “The first year I was absolutely terrified. Afterwards it looked like a lava field.”

It was hard to imagine that the scorched earth would ever support life again. But before long, native plants began to reappear, denser and more vigorous than ever.

Last year, the couple did a second burn and Reeve took part, donning a firefighter’s suit, laying a “water line” around the perimeter, then using a flamethrower to ignite the landscape.

The two prairie burns have transformed their landscape dramatically, Reeve said. They now have 50 to 60 native species, including wildflowers, native grasses and medicinal plants.

“We’ve worked really hard to expand the diversity,” Reeve said.

She also harvests seeds, drying them and scattering them to produce more native prairie plants.

Reeve is fascinated by the variety of native species now thriving on their land. She points out a compass plant, so-named because it orients its leaves to point north-south, and a purple hyssop. “If you smell the leaves, they smell like licorice,” she said. When she finds a new one, she marks it with a little flag. “So in theory, I can find them again,” she said.

When Reeve isn’t tending the prairie, she’s tending their large garden.

“We don’t buy any vegetables,” she said. “There’s nothing better than out-of-the-garden fried red potatoes for breakfast.”

Does she ever, like, relax on weekends?

“This is relaxing,” she said with a smile.

Being outdoors in the natural world restores balance and well-being for their whole family, she said. Her adult son loves splitting wood. Her younger son, Luke, likes playing “Star Wars” on the prairie and helping reseed the native plants, sometimes both at the same time.

Kids, and in particular, kids with ADHD, benefit from being outside, doing physical things, Reeve said, rather than being inside playing with electronic devices all day. “Research shows that lack of (outdoor activity) decreases people’s creativity,” she said. “It’s not rocket science. People who get out and take a walk feel better than people sitting inside all day.”

Spending time in her prairie helped her write her book, she said, and she hopes to write a second. “I want to do a book for high-school students and young adults with autism — helping them live with it,” she said.

Even the drive back to workday reality, on rural roads vs. a crowded rush-hour freeway, is a relaxing transition, she said. “I’m absolutely fresher Monday after being here. It starts the whole week off completely differently.”

Article By Kim Palmer
Minneapolis Star Tribune

Ready To Start Your Own Prairie?

Please Visit Our Website & Let’s Get Started Ion Exchange, Inc.

‘Prairie Therapy’ Soothes Psychiatrist, Autistic Son Article

When psychiatrist Elizabeth Reeve needs to unwind and recharge her mental batteries, she heads to the prairie.

Not the wild prairie, but the one she and her husband have painstakingly restored at their weekend home in southeastern Minnesota.

“It’s therapeutic — an opportunity to get outside and think in a different way,” she said.

She loves walking its five gently rolling acres and seeing what’s blooming and growing.

The prairie helps Reeve maintain the balance she needs to juggle a very full life. In addition to her practice, which focuses on autism and other developmental disabilities, she recently was named Minnesota’s Psychiatrist of the Year by her peers and published a book, a survival guide for kids with autism spectrum disorders and their parents.

It’s a subject Reeve knows not just clinically but personally, from raising an autistic son herself. Born during her residency, he’s now 24 and lives at home.

“Having a disabled adult child changes your perspective — it changes the whole plan,” Reeve said.

In a way, that changed plan helped lead Reeve’s family to the prairie. “We were looking for land to build on when we retired,” she said. “My son doesn’t drive. He has to live in an urban environment because he takes the bus. The long-term plan is he’ll have the house (in Minneapolis) and we’ll retire down here.”

Reeve and her husband, Mark Conway, alpine-ski-racing coach for the Minneapolis school district, were driving in the rural area when they saw a “for sale” sign. They liked the 1995-built house with its post-and-beam construction, and the 20 wooded acres surrounding it. The previous owner, who built the house, had already started a prairie restoration on what used to be a cornfield.

Reeve, an avid gardener, and Conway decided to buy the land and continue the restoration. Their work includes “burns,” torching the landscape to eliminate non-native plants. “The natives have deep roots; they’ll come back, but the noxious weeds are superficial,” Reeve said.

“You need a crew, so it doesn’t get out of control,” Reeve said. “The first year I was absolutely terrified. Afterwards it looked like a lava field.”

It was hard to imagine that the scorched earth would ever support life again. But before long, native plants began to reappear, denser and more vigorous than ever.

Last year, the couple did a second burn and Reeve took part, donning a firefighter’s suit, laying a “water line” around the perimeter, then using a flamethrower to ignite the landscape.

The two prairie burns have transformed their landscape dramatically, Reeve said. They now have 50 to 60 native species, including wildflowers, native grasses and medicinal plants.

“We’ve worked really hard to expand the diversity,” Reeve said.

She also harvests seeds, drying them and scattering them to produce more native prairie plants.

Reeve is fascinated by the variety of native species now thriving on their land. She points out a compass plant, so-named because it orients its leaves to point north-south, and a purple hyssop. “If you smell the leaves, they smell like licorice,” she said. When she finds a new one, she marks it with a little flag. “So in theory, I can find them again,” she said.

When Reeve isn’t tending the prairie, she’s tending their large garden.

“We don’t buy any vegetables,” she said. “There’s nothing better than out-of-the-garden fried red potatoes for breakfast.”

Does she ever, like, relax on weekends?

“This is relaxing,” she said with a smile.

Being outdoors in the natural world restores balance and well-being for their whole family, she said. Her adult son loves splitting wood. Her younger son, Luke, likes playing “Star Wars” on the prairie and helping reseed the native plants, sometimes both at the same time.

Kids, and in particular, kids with ADHD, benefit from being outside, doing physical things, Reeve said, rather than being inside playing with electronic devices all day. “Research shows that lack of (outdoor activity) decreases people’s creativity,” she said. “It’s not rocket science. People who get out and take a walk feel better than people sitting inside all day.”

Spending time in her prairie helped her write her book, she said, and she hopes to write a second. “I want to do a book for high-school students and young adults with autism — helping them live with it,” she said.

Even the drive back to workday reality, on rural roads vs. a crowded rush-hour freeway, is a relaxing transition, she said. “I’m absolutely fresher Monday after being here. It starts the whole week off completely differently.”

Article By Kim Palmer
Minneapolis Star Tribune

Ready To Start Your Own Prairie?

Please Visit Our Website & Let’s Get Started Ion Exchange, Inc.

2013: Year of the Gerbera Article

Few flowers capture the hearts of people more than Gerbera Daisies since the daisy shape is such a familiar form and is easily drawn by artists of all abilities. Combine the pleasing shape of Gerbera with bright luminous colors and you have an irresistible plant for today’s gardens. Gerbera is an extensive genus and a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae). There are approximately 30 species in the wild, extending to South America, Africa and tropical Asia. The meanings of Gerbera flowers come from those attributed to the general daisy family. These meanings include innocence and purity. Daisies are also a classic symbol of beauty. In addition, Gerberas hold an added meaning of cheerfulness, which stems from the assortment of colors available.

HISTORY

Gerbera, as we know it today, is probably originating from crossings between Gerbera jamesonii and Gerbera viridifolia. Both of these species are native to the southern part of Africa, in particular South Africa. The Gerbera genus was classified in 1737 by Gronovius and named after the German botanist, Traugott Gerber, who travelled extensively in Russia and was a friend of Carolus Linnaeus. In 1884 a rich gold deposit was discovered near Barberton, South Africa. Robert Jameson, a Scottish businessman, formed a mining company to search for gold in the Barberton area in the Kaap Valley. Near the mining operation wild Gerbera plants grew in profusion. Mr. Jameson, an amateur botanist, took interest in the wild Gerbera plants and brought some plants back with him when he returned to his residence in Durban, South Africa. These plants would later become known as the Transvaal or Barberton Daisy. The plants were initially given to the local Botanic Garden in Durban and then in 1888 sent to Kew Gardens in England. Only one plant survived the journey but fortunately another botanist, Harry Bolus, had previously sent a large number of plants to Kew in 1886 and suggested naming the species after Robert Jameson. The lead botanist at Kew, Joseph T. Hooker, agreed and soon work began in England on the development of the modern Gerbera.

BREEDING

In the beginning of the 20th century, the breeding of Gerbera accelerated when a large range of crosses were made by Adnet in France and Lynch in England. However, during the two world wars, not much breeding was done but in the early 1970’s the breeding of Gerberas accelerated again. Cut Gerbera were the main interest but Gerbera for bedding use were developed. Then in the late 1970’s breeding of potted plants began.

The first gerbera for potted plant usage began with the release of Gerbera jamesonii ‘Happipot’, an open pollinated series bred by Sakata Seed Corporation, in Yokohama, Japan. ‘Happipot’ was available in five colors and was a big hit with consumers who had never seen daisy-type flowers in colors other than white. In the early 1990’s Sakata improved on the ‘Happipot’ series with the introduction of the world’s first F1 hybrid pot Gerbera series, ‘Skipper’ and ‘Tempo’. ‘Skipper’, was a mini type for 4-inch/10 cm. pots and ‘Tempo’ was bred for slightly larger pots.

In the late 1980’s Daehnfeldt Seed Company, based in Odense, Denmark, raised the bar with the introduction of Gerbera ‘Festival’ series. ‘Festival’ offered bright colors and in an expanded color range. Initially, all Gerbera were available with green centers but in the mid-1990’s Daehnfeldt released varieties with dark centers which added a new dimension Gerbera, which increased appeal. Additional flower forms, such as semi-double and spider types, were later introduced to pique the consumer’s interest and offer her more beautiful flower forms.

FLOWER FORMS

Gerbera species bear a large flower head with rayed petals in pink, orange, yellow, gold, white, red, cream and bi-colors. The center of the flower is either green or black. The flower head has the appearance of a single flower but is actually composed of hundreds of individual flowers. Gerbera flowers are diverse and their flower heads range from 2.5 to 8 inches/6–20 cm. in diameter.

Single flowers: The main class of flowers is the single type with two layers of flower petals.

Semi-double flowers: The semi-doubles are often seen in cut flower types and some series of pot types. Semi-double flowers have extra rows of mini petals around the center eye, giving the blooms added bulk and interest.

Double flowers: Unique full flowers have 5-7 layers of flower petals that completely cover the flower head.

Spider flowers: Featuring a unique flower form with thinner and more pointed flower petals resembling sea urchins.

CUT FLOWERS

Many consumers have their first encounter with Gerbera as cut flowers since Gerbera is the fifth most used cut flower in the world (after rose, carnation, chrysanthemum, and tulip). Gerberas as cut flowers offer a rich color palette and beautiful flower forms from single to semi-double.

VEGETATIVE INTRODUCTIONS

Originally, pot type Gerberas were grown from seed This changed when an outdoor patio type from tissue culture called Gerbera jamesonii ‘Giant Spinner’ was introduced. It offers enormous pink & white flowers (8-inches/20 cm.) with a vigorous plant habit suitable for 10-inch/25 cm. pots. Additional vegetative lines from tissue culture soon followed. Florist de Kwakel B.V. introduced the ‘Landscape’ Series, a cross between potted Gerbera and cut flower types, with large flowers targeted for patio pots and large tubs. These larger flowers met a consumer need for home grown Gerbera cut flowers. The ‘Garvinea’ series is another recent introduction that has a more botanical-look with an abundance of smaller flowers on disease resistant plants.

HOME GROWING

It is not surprising that consumers would want to enjoy Gerberas in mixed containers throughout the summer growing season. Gerberas do well outdoors if given the proper care and conditions.

Media: Plant in coarse and well-drained media that is slightly acidic pH 5.5 – 6.5. A high pH results in iron chlorosis characterized by yellow striping of the upper foliage. A pH below 5.5 causes excess manganese to accumulate in the lower foliage characterized by black spotting or patches.

Exposure: Gerberas require morning sun in warmer southern climates and full sun in cooler northern locations. Do not plant them against a brick wall or near surfaces that reflect intense heat.

Moisture: Water early in the morning to allow rapid drying of foliage. Allowing moisture to remain on the leaf surface overnight invites diseases like powdery mildew.

Fertilizer: Incorporate a slow release fertilizer into the media and supplement with a liquid fertilizer every 2 weeks.

Flowering: Gerberas flower based on the amount of light the plant receives into its center. Remove excess foliage from the center throughout the season to maximize light penetration and flower production.

Diseases: Gerberas are subject to various root rots so allowing the media to dry slightly in between watering aids in keeping the root system healthy. However, do not allow the plants to wilt severely as it damages the root system making it more susceptible to fungal pathogens.

Powdery Mildew appears as whitish spots that quickly spread until the entire leaf surface is covered. The white powdery growth is a fungus that over time becomes gray to tan/brown felt like patches. Leaves may become stunted, curled, chlorotic and eventually wither and dry up.

Conditions of moderate temperatures and high humidity (>80%) help develop the disease. Under warm days and cool nights water condenses on the leaves allowing spores to germinate. Mildew pathogens are host specific and the mildew that attacks Gerbera Daisies will not spread to melons or zucchini.

Prevention and control

The use of baking soda is a kitchen-remedy that helps control powdery mildew but will not eliminate it.

Mix 1 tablespoon each of baking soda and horticultural oil (dormant oil/vegetable oil) or a few drops of liquid soap to 1 gallon of water. Spray weekly making a new mix each time. It will not eliminate the disease but helps to control it. Be sure to water the plants the day before and do not apply in full sun. As always testing the plant’s sensitivity by applying to a small area first is best.

Neem Oil is also effective in controlling infections of powdery mildew. Mix 1 oz (2 tablespoons) of Neem oil and an approved spreader sticker or a few drops of dishwashing soap to one gallon of water. The spreader sticker causes the solution to form a film on the leaf surface as opposed to droplets. Spray once a week for two weeks. A rotation of Neem oil and baking soda is the safest control method.

If using commercially available fungicide sprays, always follow label directions to make sure the product is approved for specific plants. Early detection works best. Once the disease takes hold, it is difficult to control.

Cultural preventatives

remove the infected leaves
do not crowd the plants
provide good air circulation
keep plants well watered and stress free
grow resistant plants when available
avoid excess nitrogen application as succulent new growth is more susceptible.
Insects: There are several insects that attack Gerberas including aphids, whiteflies, thrips, spider mites and leaf miners.

Aphids are insects that eat the sap from gerbera daisy leaves, which causes the leaves to turn yellow. Ladybugs and spiders are the aphid’s natural predators. You can spray a soap solution on the leaves of the gerbera daisy to keep aphids away, or apply an insecticide for aphids from your local garden supply store.

Whiteflies also eat plant juices and saps, and lay eggs on the underside of the leaves. The best way to control whiteflies is spraying insecticide not only on the top, but on the underside of each leaf of your gerbera daisies. You should also avoid planting healthy plants next to infected ones.

Thrips cause damage by eating leaves and also act as vectors bringing diseases from other plants they have previously eaten. Thrip infestation can also cause the flowers of the Gerbera daisy to have a distorted shape. Green lacewings are a natural predator, or you can use a soap shield to get rid of thrips.

Spider mites damage gerbera daisies by sucking the sap from their leaves to the point where the leaf yellows or even drops off. Like many other gerbera daisy pests, the predators for spider mites include lady bugs and pirate bugs.

GROWING GERBERAS FROM SEED

Most gardeners find it easy and convenient to purchase finished plants at the garden center. However, growing Gerberas from seed is a fun exercise for the entire family and allows the hobbyist to order some unique varieties not readily available at garden centers. Below are some basic tips to consider when deciding if this is worth doing.

Select a lightweight, sterile and well-drained media consisting of peat moss, perlite and vermiculite. The soil should retain sufficient moisture to germinate the seed but not be saturated. Optimum pH is 5.8-6.2.
Place the media in flats or pots that have drainage holes. Make shallow rows in the flats about twice the depth of the seed’s diameter and cover lightly with extra media or coarse vermiculite. Another option is to use peat blocks or Jiffy pots but be sure to guard against planting too deep.
Moisten the media thoroughly but do not oversaturate so that water does not ooze when pressed with your thumb.

Cover the flats with a clear plastic germination dome or clear plastic wrap and place about 18 inches/46 cm. under fluorescent lights.
Check the flats daily to ensure that there is sufficient moisture and do not allow the media to become dry, especially when Gerbera seeds are beginning to germinate.

Once seedlings emerge and the cotyledons are up and lying flat, allow the media to dry down in between watering. A lack of oxygen at the root level results in gnarled and stunted seedlings. Transplant as seedlings begin to touch to avoid stretched and spindly plants.

Gerberas do best with a calcium nitrate-based fertilizer that also contains some magnesium. Formulations such as 15-5-15 Cal/Mag at 150-200 ppm Nitrogen are ideal. Alternate as needed with an acidic formulation such as 20-10-20 to control the pH. A pH above 6.2 results in microelement deficiencies, especially iron and boron. A pH below 5.5 increases uptake of manganese with black spotting beginning on the lower foliage. Supplemental applications of magnesium applied every 14 days promote healthy green plants. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of Epsom Salts (magnesium sulfate) into 1 gallon of water or combined with a gallon of fertilizer solution. Professional fertilizer formulations are available at some garden centers or may be purchased on line.

Provide light up to 14 hours per day. Lighting longer than 14 hours causes excessive plant stretching.

Gerberas flower based on the amount of light received into the plant crown. Depending on conditions, flowering occurs in 18-20 weeks from sowing. A hobby greenhouse or sunny windowsill that provides higher light levels will hasten plant development and flowering.

Article Is From the National Garden Bureau, Inc., Website

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“Using Herbs” In The Landscape Article

I recently moved into an older home with a great cobblestone sidewalk in the back garden. However, weeds like to grow between the stones. I hesitate to use an herbicide because I don’t want to damage the nearby flowers, which include everything from tea roses to daisies. Any suggestions on how to rid the sidewalk area of the weeds? I once was told that common table salt could be used between the cracks of the stones. Is this a possibility?

It sounds like you’ve inherited a lovely garden retreat! Salt would probably make the soil inhospitable to plants and soil organisms in your walkway, but there may be danger of the salt leaching into the soil and affecting the plants you want to preserve. How about these alternatives? Some folks like to plant low-growing herbs, such as creeping thyme or dwarf peppermint, between flagstones in a walkway. The herbs grow into a mat, discouraging other plant growth, and as you walk, you’re surrounded by the fragrance of the herbs. You could rent or buy a flame weeder, and burn off the weedy growth. You could also clean out the vegetation that is there by using a low-impact, soap-based contact herbicide. The active ingredients are fatty acid salts which kill plant cells on contact, but which do not persist in the environment. Once you weed the area, you could put down a thick layer of bark mulch, sand or other material between the stones to discourage growth in the long term.

Article Taken From http://www.arcamax.com

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