I PLANTED SOME HERBS—WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH THEM?

So–you planted some herbs in your garden.  Now what?  How should you put these delightful plants to good use? Many herbs smell heavenly and look beautiful in flower arrangements, but you may find that the greatest reward comes from using your herbs in the kitchen. Throughout the season, remember to pinch back the flowers from your herbs regularly.  This insures continuous and bushy growth.   Try to harvest herbs early in the day, before the hot sun draws out the flavorful essential oils.  When harvesting, cut stem at a node about 1/3 of the way down. When you get your herbs into the house, rinse them briefly in cool water and pat them dry.  Remove the leaves from the stems and use a sharp knife to chop them for your recipe.  As a rule, if your recipe calls for dried herbs, use 3 times the amount of fresh herbs. (For example, for 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, use 3 teaspoons fresh oregano.)  If you are using herbs in a  recipe  that requires cooking, add them toward the end of the cooking time.  If they are going into an uncooked dish, add them early in the process so that the flavors have time to blend and...

6 Tips to Reduce Heat Stress

Every summer when the temperature goes up, we see our gardens start to suffer.  Plant vigor decreases, and wilting and scorching makes our gardens look miserable. With a few easy steps we can use some simple solutions to prevent havoc on our lovely gardens, keep them looking beautiful so all our hard work pays off. Following these six tips will hopefully lead you to a more successful garden this summer. Put the right plant in the right place. All too often shade plants like hydrangeas, ligularias, hostas, and astilbes are planted in full sun in areas that dry out, which causes them to scorch and wilt. Every time a plant wilts or scorches it damages the overall health of the plant. The stress can lead to lack of vigor, weakened immune system against insects and diseases, and even death. Therefore, putting plants in their proper setting will make for a healthier garden. Know when and how much to water. The best way to create a more self-sustaining garden is by watering in greater quantities and less frequently. Watering for longer periods will cause the water to seep down into the soil at a greater depth. This will cause roots to grow deeper into the earth. Apply enough water to wet a sandy soil 1 foot deep and a clay soil 6 to 8 inches deep. This requires about 1 inch of rain or sprinkler irrigation. If you water more often in short intervals, the roots will stay towards the surface where all the water is. Unfortunately, the surface layers are the first to dry out, so if your plants...

Ask Ron

Don’t let June bug ya’! We are not the only ones who enjoy the colors, scents and tastes of our garden plants—unfortunately, we often have to share with our non-human friends.  How can we all just get along? When you see little yellowish spots on the leaves, they may be caused by thrips. Thrips are very tiny bugs that may be found on flower petals in the heat of the day.  Thrips are difficult to see, (only the adults can be seen with the naked eye) and to get rid of. You can control them with a systemic insecticide like Bayer Rose Care and eliminate them with an insecticidal soap such as Bonide– even a sharp spray with the hose may help. Lacewings and ladybugs are natural predators, too. Flea Beetles are also currently active.  They leave dense brown spots on plants like geraniums, oregano, lemon balm and others in the mint family.  Flea beetles are small round shiny bugs that prefer heavy soils.  Cut back the affected plants and use Sevin or an insecticidal soap to get rid of them.  Whenever you use an insecticidal soap, do not spray in the heat of the day—it may burn the plants.  The best time to apply it is in the evening. Also, be on the lookout for spider mites–especially in dwarf Alberta spruces.  You may see a yellow to rust patch that will get bigger and bigger.  Spider mites are easy to control if you catch them early enough.  They can be prevented with Bayer Advanced, or controlled by a contact spray like Sevin.  Insecticidal soaps work well too, and...

The Enigmatic Hydrangea

Hydrangeas are loved the world over. They come in several different colors ranging anywhere from white, pink, red, blue, and all hues in between. Their show of color and length of bloom are unmatched in any garden. Appallingly, more than half of our inquiries every year are concerning the Hydrangea. Why won’t it bloom? When do I cut it back? How do I keep it blue? Which type of fertilizer do I use? Read on to find these questions and much more to be finally answered. General Hydrangea Facts Hydrangeas are in the Hydrangeaceae family (sometimes placed in the Saxifragaceae family). The most common and well known are the large snowball varieties called “Hortensia”. There are over 600 named varieties listed worldwide. Most are shrubs, some are small trees, while others are vines. The most common species are Hydrangea paniculata, Hydrangea quercifolia, Hydrangea macrophylla, Hydrangea serrata, Hydrangea arborescens, and Hydrangea anomala var. petiolaris. Why won’t it bloom? Because many varieties of hydrangeas tend to break bud early in the spring and are very frost sensitive, they continually freeze out in our Michigan spring seesaw type weather. As soon as temperatures reach 40 degrees or higher, the plants will begin to break dormancy thus leaving them vulnerable to freezing. This usually occurs around February and March in our area. The buds then become damaged, and if a substantial amount is damaged it can cause the whole stem to die. Most varieties are root hardy and can be treated as a perennial sub-shrub, but usually won’t bloom on this new wood. It is possible to get them to bloom reliably, but...

Come to the Gardens

Get ideas, inspiration and education!  Get “Stuck on Gardening” at the 2010 Michigan State University Extension Public Garden Tour, Saturday, June 26 and Sunday, June 27. Enjoy a lovely day or two with your friends and family viewing 8 gardens presented by Kent County Master Gardeners and “My Favorite Garden Shops.” Each stunning garden offers something unique, from formal to rustic settings, herbs to native plants,  masses of colorful annuals to specimens.  Knapp Valley Gardens is pleased to partner with Dick and Maggie Bethel, at 6375 Cannon Highland Drive, NE in Belmont, and “show off” their impressive garden. The Bethel’s large woodland garden has been a work in progress for nearly fifteen years,  but Maggie, former Director of MSU Extension, has been “stuck on gardening” since childhood. “It’s in my bones,” says Maggie, “I was a farm kid, and I always admired my mother’s and grandmother’s garden, especially my grandmother’s flower garden.  Now, whenever I’m in the garden, it makes me feel closer to them, it’s so peaceful. Then just last year, I took the Master Gardener’s Class.” When you visit the Bethel’s, you will be treated to bright yellow sundrops, bold pink impatiens, soft astilbes, a variety of colorful lilies and several water features  Their collection of hostas is impressive, there are even several selections named for Dick and Maggie. “I describe my garden as woodland shade with pockets of sun,” explains Maggie.  “I try to coax color out of shade.  I have no plan, I am constantly rearranging plants.  This is definitely not a ‘plant by numbers’ garden.” Maggie’s favorites?  “Lilies—but I have to fight with the...
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