In a previous post, www. allrescuedogs.com/pet-and-children-friendly-fertilizers/ I talked about dogs and toxic chemicals and fertilizers for our lawns. Now I am going to talk about natural fertilizers and homemade natural fertilizers for our yards and gardens.
What are natural fertilizers?
Natural and organic fertilizer differs from chemicals in that they feed your plants while building the soil. Soils with lots of organic material remain loose and airy, hold more moisture and nutrients, foster growth of soil organisms, and promote healthier plant root development. This helps prevent soil erosion. Natural fertilizer (a.k.an organic fertilizer) includes biodegradable compounds such as green manure, animal waste and compost. Natural fertilizers release chemicals slowly to the soil. That makes them very good for crops or plants like perennials that come back year after year. Natural fertilizers include more nutrients together. They minimize the negative environmental impacts. Natural fertilizers are cheaper than artificial fertilizer and have minimum health hazards.
Why do we need fertilizers?
As plants grow, their roots absorb nutrients from the soil and use them to produce leaves, flowers and fruit. Over time, a plant can exhaust the nutrients in its growing environment. Traditionally, the answer to that problem has been to provide fertilizers, which return essential nutrients to the soil. With growing concerns about the negative effects of fertilizer runoff, however, organic alternatives to fertilizers provide inexpensive, easy and sustainable options.
Crop rotation is an ancient practice in which a specific plot is planted with successive different crops in order to replenish the nutrients of the soil. Some plants require more of a particular nutrient than others, while other plants return certain nutrients to the soil. Planting many successive crops of a single plant in a single location tends to result in depletion of specific nutrients in that plot of soil. By introducing plants with different needs into the area, depletion are not as severe, giving soil time to recover nutrients needed for healthy plant growth. In a simple crop rotation plan, nitrogen-loving plants, such as tomatoes, should be planted the year after legumes that return nitrogen to the soil. Plants that don't consume many nutrients, like herbs and root vegetables, grow well when planted after "heavy feeders" like lettuces, according to "Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening."
Compost In nature, composting breaks down dead plant material and returns available nutrients to the soil for use by living plants. Home composting replicates that process, creating humus-rich soil that can be returned to gardens to restore soil nutrients. Home made or natural ingredients include grass clippings, vegetable scraps, coffee grinds and pulled garden weeds. Other ingredients include dead leaves, paper and straw. Add compost on top or mix it into the first few inches of soil for a fertilizer-free way to restore soil nutrients.
COFFEE GROUNDS – Acid-loving plants such as tomatoes, blueberries, roses and azaleas do well with coffee grounds added to the soil. Sprinkle coffee grounds on top of the ground before watering or pour a liquid version on top of the soil. If using as a soil drench, soak 6 cups of coffee grounds in a 5 gallon bucket of water. Let it sit for 2-3 days and then saturate the soil around your plants.
BANANA PEELS – Go ahead and dig your plant hole and add one or two peels in the hole before planting. You can also bury peels under mulch so they can compost naturally.
EGG SHELLS – Wash them first, then crush. Work the shell pieces into the soil near tomatoes and peppers. The calcium helps fend off blossom end rot. Eggshells are 93% calcium carbonate, the same ingredient as lime, a tried and true soil amendment!
WEEDS – You’ve got your own fertilizer growing under your feet! Nettles, comfrey, yellow dock, burdock, horsetail and chickweed make wonderful homemade fertilizer. There are several ways you can use them to make your own brew or to speed up your compost pile. If your weeds have not gone to flower you can dry them in the sun and chop them up to use as a mulch. They are high in nitrogen and won’t rob your plants of nutrients. Borage (star flower) is a herb. It has many of the same nutritional properties as comfrey.
SEAWEED – Both fresh and dried versions are considered excellent soil amendments. Seaweed contains trace elements and actually serves as a food source for soil microbes. Chop up a small bucket of seaweed and add it to 5 gallons of water. Let it sit for 2-3 weeks loosely covered. Use it to drench the soil and foliage. 2 cups work well for a small plant, 4 cups for a medium plants and 6 cups for a large plant.
MOLASSES – Using molasses in compost increases microbes and the beneficial bacteria that microbes feed on. If you want to start out with a simple recipe for molasses fertilizer, mix 1-3 tablespoons of molasses into a gallon of water. Water your plants with this concoction and watch them grow bigger and healthier.
HUMAN URINE – Sounds disgusting, but urine is considered sterile if the body it’s coming from is healthy and free of viruses and infection. High in nitrogen, urea contains more phosphorous and potassium than many of the fertilizers we buy at the store! If serving tomatoes that have been fertilized with pee gives you the “willies”, try it in the compost pile. A good ratio of urine to water would be 1:8. You can collect a cup of urine and pour it into 8 cups of water in a plastic bucket used outside for fertilizing plants. Pour 2 cups around the perimeter of each SMALL plant. For MEDIUM plants add 4 cups and LARGE plants deserve a good 6 cups of your personal home brew. Maybe we can put our animals to use by letting them relieve themselves by plants and then watering the yard!!
GRASS CLIPPINGS – Rich in nitrogen, grass breaks down over time and enhances the soil. Fill a 5 gallon bucket full of grass clippings. You can even add weeds! Weeds soak up nutrients from the soil just as much as grass. Add water to the top of the bucket and let sit for a day or two.
MANURE – With a little effort, you’ll find folks that are giving away composted chicken, horse or cow manure for free. Composted and aged manure is best. Add the composted manure to a small permeable bag made from recycled cloth, e.g., a t-shirt or old towel. Let it steep in the shade for a few days and apply it to your soil to condition it before planting. Bury or discard the used bag. Some people use manure tea to soak bare root roses!
Neem-The tropical tree called neem is an effective natural fertilizer. Boil a few leaves of neem in a water pot. Let the boiled water cool down, and then pour it into a spray bottle. Spray evenly on your garden once a week. It will nourish the soil and fight harmful insects, too.
WORM CASTINGS or Vermicomposting – As an earthworm feeds on organic matter, it creates castings--small granular droppings--that are rich with nutrients plants need to thrive. A single earthworm produces its weight in castings each day. Kept indoors in a cool, dark place, a worm bin turns discarded kitchen scraps into castings that return essential nutrients to the soil.
Cover Crops Similar to crop rotation, planting cover crops--also called green manures--involves planting crops that will restore nutrients to the soil. Cover crops are planted during off-seasons, such as the winter or early spring, to return nutrients needed for spring and summer food crops and prevent nutrients from leaching from the soil. Legumes, like clover, are popular choices for winter cover crops up north, as they restore nutrients while also preventing soil erosion. Peas and beans may also be suitable winter cover crops in warmer places. Green mulches are another type of cover crop that are planted in the summer among the vegetable crop. In addition to keeping soil nutrients in balance, green mulches also suppress the growth of weeds.
Most of us don't have time to make our own home made fertilizer. When you are ready to have a professional come contact us at 630-528-1021
We are still living through the Polar Vortex in the Midwest!! All of these rains and the cooler temperatures this summer are still being caused by the aftermath of our winter freeze. I am 55 years old and have never lived through such a cold winter in Illinois! I have lived through much larger amounts of snow being dropped on us at one time and I have lived through ice storms, but that cold was un-nerving!!!
Our poor boxwoods and other plants did not all survive the cold. We have cut down so many brushes and branches that were barely surviving before, are now gone.
What is a polar vortex anyway?
According to Wikipedia a polar vortex is "an upper level low-pressure area lying near the Earth's poles. There are two polar vortices in the Earth's atmosphere, overlying the North and South Poles." And Dictionary.com adds, "a whirling mass of very cold air that sits over the North or South Pole".
Why did the midwest get hit so hard?
The midwest and most of the rest of the US was affected by it because bitter cold air moved farther south than usual. That brought a huge amount of snow to the northern US and colder temperatures to the midwest. In fact, it even brought colder temperatures through much of the south, too, because the polar jetstream dipped so far south.
While we were dealing with the cold and the snow, people in Europe were dealing with above normal temperatures and rain, when they would more normally have snow in the northern areas.
What happened to our plants?
Any part of the plant (and insects) that were under the snow, survived. The snow protected them. Any part of the plant, like limbs, branches, leaves, buds and the bark (and insects that lived in the trees) were affected by the cold air and basically froze.
How can we avoid our plants dying in the future from our cold winters?
When these cold temperatures kill off our plants, they will not rejuvenate themselves. The dead branches need to be cut off and possibly the bush or plant will need to be removed completely. We can learn from the experience and improve our chances for successful long-term growing of new and/or existing boxwood’s that did survive last winter.
-During the summer, water the roots deeply but less often.
-Before winter hits this year water the root system/ball very well , before the ground freezes.
-Put in a 2″+/- layer of organic water absorbing mulch around the base of your boxwood’s to further assist in retaining moisture (refresh as needed).
-Install physical winter barriers/screens around your boxwood’s and other sensitive plants to keep deicing salt out of soil and to reduce moisture-robbing winter wind exposure (winter foliage desiccation).
-Choose the right plant for the right place. Any plants that are marginally hardy in our zone, or that were planted in conditions they don’t prefer will be the first ones that are damaged by extreme weather conditions.
If you are unsure if a certain plant will survive the winter or how to wrap your plant contact us at 630-528-1021.
Ahhhhhh....Summer!!!! The smells...barbeque, fresh cut grass, flowers, I love it all! The warm weather and sunshine wants us to get outside and enjoy our lawns! We put alot of work into our yard and want to enjoy it while we can. Nothing is better than a fresh cut green lawn to lay our blanket on or move our lawn chair over to. With that in mind, do you ever wonder or even think about how our grass gets so green and lush? Fertilizer!
I will be reviewing different fertilizers in this post. I will be discussing the best nutrients for our lawns and the safest for our families. In another post, www.allrescuedogs/dogs-and-fertilization-how-concerned-should-we-be/.com a safety concern was discussed about fertilizing our yards and owning pets. We all want lush lawns but at what cost? We aren't just talking about our pets here, we're talking about our children too. Playing on the glass, maybe having a picnic with food on the lawn. This is a concern to be looked at for our whole family. We want to enjoy those picnics on the grass!
Lawn fertilizing is one of the most important aspects of lawn care, so it is important to know what is in a bag of lawn fertilizer and how it affects your lawn. All lawn fertilizer should be labeled clearly to indicate the quantities of elemental nutrients found in the product. There are three main chemicals in the fertilizers we need to know about. They do the most for our grass and have the biggest concern for our safety. It is nitrogen-phosphorous and potassium. This is the formula that the companies put on their bags. It is the percentage amount of nitrogen-phosphorus and potassium in each bag. Why do we need these ingredients? What do they do for our lawn and what effect does it have on our families?
For the lawn: Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plants. It’s responsible for the beautiful green color that you see in plant stems, for growth of the grass and for your lawn’s appearance of fullness or lushness. In other plants, a large dose of nitrogen can cause rapid, leggy growth. Leaving grass clippings on the lawn recycles the nitrogen, but the process of absorption is too slow for clippings alone to meet all of a lawn's nitrogen needs. Sounds great for the lawn!
What effect does it have on dogs: Weakness, Fatigue, Vomiting, Diarrhea, Depression, Dehydration, Constipation, Weight loss (cachexia), Loss of appetite (anorexia), Bad breath (halitosis), Muscle wasting, Hypothermia, Poor hair coat, and Unnatural lack of color in the skin.
For the lawn: Phosphorus is involved in the metabolic processes responsible for transferring energy from one point to another in the plant. Energy from the stem can be transferred to the tips of the leaves with the help of phosphorus. It's also critical in root development and flowering. Phosphorus is one of the three major nutrients, or macronutrients, used by plants.
Effect on our dogs: none
For the Lawn: Potassium makes lawns resistant to weeds and disease. Potassium is important in the synthesis of some plant components and the regulation of processes, including the more efficient use of nitrogen by the plant.
Effect on our dogs: Gastrointestinal – Vomiting, transient diarrhea, and bloody feces.
These three fertilizers claim to be Pet and friendly:
Purely Organic Products Lawn Food is a new all-natural fertilizer.
The company claims: "Cost-Effective and Excellent Coverage One 25-pound bag covers up to 5,000 square feet of turf. Will NOT Burn Your Lawn. No Harsh Ingredients. Plant-Based Ingredients. Unlike manure- based and bio solid fertilizers, No Manure = No Unpleasant Odor.
The ratio is 10-0-2. That means it has 10% nitrogen (harmful to our family) 0 % phosphorus and 2% potassium.
Dr. Earth Super Natural Lawn Fertilizer
The company claims: "A superior homogeneous blend of fish meal, fish bone meal, feather meal, potassium sulfate, alfalfa meal, calcium sulfate, seaweed extract, mycorrhizae and beneficial soil microbes. Controls thatch build up by digesting thatch ( Adds life to lawns by providing a broad spectrum of beneficial soil microbes plus three mycorrhizae stains. This ensures nutrients are made available to the grass roots more effectively and at a steady rate. Greatly enhances the quality of environment for the soil that your lawn grows in fast results, plus continuous feeding for up to three months"
The chemical ratio is: 9-3-5. That means it has 9% nitrogen (harmful to our pups) 3 % phosphorus and 5% potassium (harmful to our pups).
Safer® Brand Lawn Restore® Fertilizer
The company claims: "Safer® Brand Lawn Restore® Fertilizer is the answer to lawn revitalization and rejuvenation issues. With 25% more coverage per bag, lower cost, and a more effective formula of 9-0-2, Lawn Restore® is the smart choice for your lawn. Each bag contains up to 6,250 sq ft of coverage and provides all of the nutrients your lawn needs to revitalize to a thick turf in just one product. The NPK ratio of nutrients provides your lawn and soil with the nutrients it needs to promote healthy growth, develop a robust root system, repair a thinning lawn, and alleviate stress conditions throughout the year. When used as directed, Lawn Restore® Fertilizer is safe for children and pets immediately after application."
Their ratio is: 9-0-2 That means it has 9% nitrogen ( harmful to our pups) 0 % phosphorus and 2% potassium (to our pups).
Scotts 4-Step Program
Step 1 Starter Fertilizer With Crabgrass Preventer - Alternative Step 1 of the Scotts 4-Step annual program. Safe for seeding. Also prevents crabgrass and 25 broadleaf weeds for up to 6 weeks. Apply when planting grass seed. 5000 square feet.
ratio: 21-22-4. Active ingredient: 0.08%.
Bonide 60460 Premium Lawn Food, 5M
Premium Lawn Food, provides the best quality formulation, and analysis for creating, and maintaining a beautiful lawn, Will keep your lawn at peak performance, Quality zero Phosphorous fertilizer with Vital X Micronutrients, and a 20% slow release Nitrogen, Meets all future EPA requirements for Nitrogen in a 4 Phase Fertilizer Program, provides up to 5,000 square feet of coverage.
Urban Farm Fertilizer Liquid lawn fertilizer, 1 quart
hand-crafted, Micro-brewed liquid lawn fertilizer for all lawn and pasture. With mycorrhizae, humic acid, enzymes, and more. 100% nutrition: Macros & Micros, with Iron and balanced N-P-K. Perfect for tow behind tank and hose-end spraying! Instant Green. 1 gallon treats a 5,000 sq ft lawn a minimum 8 times with a hose-end sprayer.
My recommendation for the safest fertilizer for your family is:
Safer® Brand Lawn Restore® Fertilizer
My recommendation for the fertilizer that will make your lawn the greenist, healthiest, and most lush lawn on the block is Scotts 4-step program. While Bonide is a close second, you may have to order it online, as it is not sold across the U.S. yet.
I take my dog for a walk twice a day. I also fertilize my yard twice a year. When we go for a walk, I don't always look to see if the yards in our neighborhood have fertilizer on them. Sometimes I can see some of the little granules on the sidewalk as we are walking by. So how dangerous is this for my pooch and others?
Fertilizers used in our gardens to enhance the beauty and growth of our plants can be very toxic to our pets when ingested or exposed to the skin and mucus membranes. Quite often, the fertilizers that we use are mixed with substances that are more harmful than the fertilizers themselves.
The answer to this question depends on the type of lawn fertilizer. The same elements that make grass grow green and lush often cause canine health problems. To have both a beautiful lawn and a healthy pup, what can we do?
The dilemma with the application of lawn fertilizer is that it goes exactly where your dog wants to put his nose. Dogs by nature have their noses on the ground, sniffing everything. They like to smell the ground and poke their nose into holes. Trouble is, that is where the fertilizer goes until it is absorbed into the ground for the roots of your lawn to convert to food for the grass. A dog can be exposed to fertilizer by simply walking across a lawn that has been treated. Some fertilizer residues can stay in toxic form for days to weeks. Aside from the accidental ingestion of a product that the pet finds palatable, chewing on treated grass or licking the fur and feet after a dermal exposure can cause poisonous effects.
Lawn fertilizers carry nitrogen, phosphate and potassium, all of which cause irritation to a dog's stomach when ingested. Some of the additives that may be present in fertilizer are: Iron Disulfoton (responsible for seizures and pancreatitis) Copper Zinc Phosphorous and Ammonium (irritates skin and lungs).
Fertilizer and Stomach Troubles
A study conducted by Purdue University shows that the ingestion of insecticides and herbicides fosters a higher risk of bladder cancer in canines. A case of mild exposure to fertilizer can result in burns on the pads of the feet (if your pet walked through or rolled in your fertilizer application) or irritation to the mouth or eyes. Lawn fertilizers can cause skin irritation in dogs. While it's unlikely an ingestion of these elements will cause death, they were never intended to be in your dog's digestive system. They will most likely cause him a moderate to severe stomachache and bring on vomiting and diarrhea. DVM 360 states that a dog ingesting larger amounts of phosphorus and potassium commonly reacts by being lethargic.
What is Fertilizers Poisoning?
When our canine family members come in contact with fertilizer products, the effects can range from mild to severe. Depending on the length of time of contact and how the fertilizer poisoning occurred, complications may include oral burns and stomach irritation. The accidental ingestion of fertilizer by your dog means that he has eaten a product that can possibly contain harmful substances (herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides) in addition to the compounds (phosphorous, iron, nitrogen) which are toxic when consumed in large amounts. In addition to vomiting and breathing difficulties, fertilizers can cause ulceration in the gastrointestinal tract and burns on the skin. If you suspect that your dog has eaten fertilizer, or of you have recently used the product in your garden and he is acting ill, a visit to the clinic is warranted without delay.
Since pet owners want both worlds -- a lush lawn and a protected dog, several manufacturers of lawn care products now produce fertilizers that are considered organic or "more safe" for lawns frequented by animal companions. Even when marketed as "safe," some of these lawn applications may still contain elements that could be harmful to a canine. Thoroughly check the labels to determine the safety of a product. It can take a bit of searching to find a truly pet-safe lawn fertilizer, according to Gardening Central. Some fertilizers are clearly marked as "not safe" while others have no declaration either way.
Keep Off The Grass
The Dog Owner's Guide suggests keeping pets off treated grass for 24 hours, as nitrogen can burn the pads of a dog's foot. The guide also recommends keeping pets indoors during application to prevent an airborne inhalation or skin contact.
In the case of liquid fertilizer, the SFGate states that dogs should be kept off of lawns until the grass is visibly dry. For granular fertilizer, keeping dogs away from grass for 24 hours allows enough time for the soil to absorb the pellets.
What to do if you suspect your dog has come in contact with fertilizer.
. Bring him to the veterinarian to determine the level of toxicosis. In the case of a basic fertilizer, the symptoms are mostly gastrointestinal and often will resolve within a day or two. It’s best to have your pet checked and be sure to bring along the container or product leaflet so the veterinarian can verify the ingredients of the product. If the fertilizer contains herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides the situation may become more urgent because the toxic effects of fertilizer containing these additives are much harsher. The veterinarian will base the diagnosis on clinical signs (vomiting, dermal ulcers) and may want to do additional urinalysis and blood testing (to check toxicity levels or to look for signs of secondary illness like pancreatitis), depending on the type of fertilizer.
Treatment will vary depending on factors such as the type of fertilizer exposure or ingestion, how much of the product was eaten, and how long the fertilizer was on the skin. Treatment for fertilizer poisoning in the case of additional herbicides and pesticides will vary due to the product.
If you think your dog has come across fertilizer, error on the side of caution and take them to your vet.
Watering tips for your best garden this year
Proper watering can mean the difference between perfect looking plants and wilted or dying plants. It's a judgment call that depends on the type of plant, the soil, the weather, the time of year and many other variables. You just need to check the soil. Different watering methods use more or less water and deliver water to different places on or around the plant. Always look up the water requirements for specific plants. Plants that are native to desert areas generally require much less water than plants native to wet climates. Because many gardens have plants with different water requirements, you sometimes have to use more than one method of watering. The first year it is vital to establish a strong root system.
The Best Way to Water
Most plants depend on even moisture. However, slight drying out before watering promotes root growth of the plants.
Watering is of no value if the water runs down the outside of the root ball, leaving the roots at the core of the plant dry. This can happen if you water too quickly or apply too much water at once. Slower watering is usually more effective. The key is to ensure that water gets to the root zone — whether you are tending seedlings, watering houseplants, watering a row of tomatoes or soaking thirsty shrubs and trees.
Eight Tips For Watering Your Garden
Water alone will only sustain a plant for a limited time. Plants need nutrients to remain healthy, resist disease and insects, and to thrive and grow. After your initial feeding of transplant fertilizer, feed with a slow release fertilizer twice a year; usually in the spring and late summer. Eliminate weeds that compete for water, nutrients and light, and attract insects and disease. Replenish mulch as it decomposes.
We want our yards to look good all year long. It takes good, old fashioned elbow grease to keep our gardens thriving and growing. Between the rakes, mowers, shovels, spades, hose, and wheel barrel, it's not a job for weaklings! Fortunately, we have some tips for you to make yard work easier and productive.
The area that we are tackling today are shrubs. There are several reasons why we may feel the need to trim back our shrubs. If the bushes in your foundation plantings are overgrown, you may have the urge to start hacking away at them. But before you haphazardly attack that lopsided hydrangea devouring your front walk or the rhododendron obscuring your windows, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the basic information on pruning shrubs.
Caring for shrubs on a regular basis is one of the tasks to keep them growing and flowering. Spring is the perfect time to examine the health of landscape shrubs. Mature shrubs can quickly become overgrown and wild. Bushes originally planted to provide tranquil surroundings, shade, or privacy, may no longer flourish. Additionally, overgrown, unsightly shrubs may block walkways and paths. Shrubs may have life left in them, even when they appear tattered. Busy home owners in Naperville, Illinois often do not have the time to properly care for shrubs, and many turn to a professional landscape company like PS Garden Whisperers, for help to rejuvenate their yard.
What exactly is pruning? A basic definition is an important gardening skill, pruning refers to the trimming and cutting of plants to rid them of any injured, dead, or infected roots and wood. In some cases, pruning is also used as a preventive measure to make space for any new seedling or growth.
There are two types of pruning we will discuss first. Selective pruning, an important maintenance practice used to remove broken, damaged and diseased branches from trees and shrubs. Selective pruning is used to improve their shape, control their size and increase air circulation to discourage disease. This can be done with either pruning shears or simply by breaking them off with your hands. If you keep up with your selective pruning, this won't take much time out of your weekly gardening.
There’s another, more severe, method of pruning and it's called rejuvenation pruning.
Rejuvenation pruning is the extreme cutting back of (otherwise healthy) overgrown or underproductive shrubs. The method should be used when shrubs have become overgrown, present with a wide open area in their centers or simply have declined and are failing to thrive, fruit or flower. The goal is to force the plant to replace older, weaker stems and less productive branches with fresh, new, vigorous ones. It’s drastic, but when all is said and done, it will be like having a brand-new plant.
Do not attempt rejuvenation pruning on needled evergreen shrubs. They should never be pruned beyond their needles, that is, cuts shouldn’t be made on bare wood. Likewise, do not completely cut down shrubs that grow from a single trunk. Rejuvenation pruning is intended for caning shrubs, those that send up multiple stems straight from the ground.
It’s crucial to rejuvenate old shrubs at the right time, limiting damage during the pruning process. Pruning shrubs, or cutting them back, at the wrong time can impact flower production and foliage growth. Any shrub marked for rejuvenation, due to severe damage or dead growth, should be worked on in early spring, before new growth appears.
Most trees and shrubs are dormant in late winter and early spring. This is the perfect time to prune a shrub that blooms in the summer or fall, such as a butterfly bush, caryoptens, and rose of Sharon.
Flowering shrubs and trees, including azaleas, lilacs, roses, and rhododendrons, should be rejuvenated after their blooms begin to die off. Their growth and blooms are from the previous year. Depending upon the flowering shrub, the pruning may be done during the spring or summer.
Watch this video to learn how.
Methods of Rejuvenating Shrubs
Begin by pruning away dead or damaged branches with a pruning shear, lopper, or a saw. Your tools should be sharp enough to leave a straight, clean cut. It's not ideal to leave ragged edges. Consider using anvil pruners and bypass loppers, which allow even smaller hands to cut branches up to one and a half inches thick. You'll need a small powered chainsaw, a wood saw, or metal hacksaw for thicker branches and trunks.
Where to Cut
Prune just above what's known as the "branch collar," that little ring of bumpy tissue at the junction of a branch and main trunk. The bumpy area is rich with plant growth cells. Leaving the collar intact gives your shrub a better chance to callous over and recover from your surgery.
To rejuvenate very old shrubs with large areas of dead growth, you may need to hard prune the shrubs. This will leave a stub just 6 – 12 inches above the ground. Hard prune shrubs in spring before buds open, using a long-handled pruner. Because heavy pruning is stressful on shrubs, they will require a lot of attention for the first year or two. Ensure that the shrubs are watered well and continually examine them for disease and pests. A northern New Jersey landscape company can assist you with organic fertilizer options for your shrubs and soil, that support new growth.
Diseased leaves and branches must also be removed from shrubs. Broken branches, leftover from the winter, can be pruned with a hand pruner or handsaw. Remove the oldest shoots from spring-blooming shrubs and trees, to promote new blooms next year. A pole saw with a rotating head works well for tall shrubs and trees. Regular pruning and maintenance of shrubs removes unattractive and unhealthy growth every year. Rejuvenating shrubs in this manner prevents overgrown, diseased, and dead shrubs.
When you rejuvenate shrubs, it’s critical not to stress the plant, weakening it. Removing all of the stems, branches, and leaves makes it more vulnerable to diseases and pests. A regular maintenance program, with the help of a professional landscape company, will keep your Bergen County yard, and shrubs, healthy and attractive year-round.
1. Sever the entire plant by cutting it down to the soil line. This method requires a certain level of intestinal fortitude because, let’s face it, it can be nerve-wracking to cut a mature plant to the ground. Waiting for it to grow back while looking at a gap in your landscape isn’t pleasant either, and the time it takes to grow back can vary widely, according to the type of shrub. But this method will provide the most uniform results.
2. Prune all the branches to unequal heights in one session. Begin by removing broken, crisscrossed and diseased branches at their bases, then stand back and visualize the overall size and shape you’d like, and prune each remaining stem or branch, some long and others shorter, making each cut above an outward-facing lateral branch or bud. It’s from these buds that new, outward growth will be stimulated.
3. Remove one-third of the plant’s branches each year over the course of three years, starting with the oldest, least productive. This is the least severe method, as well as the least intrusive to your landscape, but you have to remember to follow through and complete the second and third phases over the next two years.
If a shrub has one to several largely upright main stems and a framework of branches, you can convert it to a small tree by removing the lower branches.
If just one main stem is in good shape or well placed, cut the rest to the ground; the remaining main stem will become the trunk of the “tree.” Remove side stems on the trunk up to the point where you want branching to begin.
If the shrub has several good stems, you can leave them all. Remove side stems up to the point where you want branching to begin; then thin out those that remain to form an uncluttered crown for your new tree.
If you do not want to transform an overgrown shrub into a tree, you can sometimes force it to grow to a lower height. To do this, cut the highest branches back halfway, making heading cuts. Select about a third of the branches for such treatment each year. Some of them may die, but others often sprout new growth at the lower level. Once you’ve achieved a smaller shrub with vigorous young growth, thin out any weak, badly placed, or crowding shoots.
Rejuvenating shrubs that grow from the base
Many of the shrubs that grow directly from the base, sending up stems (canes) from the roots, canwithstand severe pruning. Some of the plants described in this chapter that take such treatment are glossy abelia (Abelia grandiflora), barberry (Berberis), forsythia, oleander (Nerium oleander), mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius), cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa), and spiraea. Cut all growth back to the ground before new spring growth begins; if the treatment is successful, the plant will usually achieve its normal height within several years.
If you’re not sure that the shrub can take such drastic pruning, implement a 4-year program. Do no cutting the first year ― just water and fertilize well to make the plant as healthy as possible. Over the next 3 years, remove about a third of the oldest stems annually, pruning them back to the ground just before growth begins in spring.
Removing and replacing old shrubs is definitely an option, especially if they are dead or diseased. However, rejuvenating old shrubs, if feasible, is a better, and often more cost efficient option.
We want beautiful gardens all year long, from early spring up until the first frost. How do we do that? There is a science behind it all.
Gardening can be considered both as an art, concerned with arranging plants harmoniously in their surroundings, and as a science, encompassing the principles and techniques of plant cultivation. Because plants are often grown in conditions very different from those of their natural environment, it is necessary to apply cultivation techniques stemming from plant physiology, chemistry, and botany, that are modified and applied by the experience of the planter.
The gardener attends to a number of basic processes: combating weeds and pests; using space for enough growth between plants; feeding, watering, and pruning; and conditioning the soil. The gardener also assesses and accommodates the temperature, wind, rainfall, sunlight, and shade found within the garden boundaries. A major part of the fascination of gardening is that in problems and potential, no one garden is quite like another.
The gardener needs to assess by watching to see when the garden gets sunlight (morning, noon or late afternoon) and how long the sun lasts over the specific plot of land chosen for the garden. This will help determine which plants will thrive the best.
The soil needs to be tested to see if it is too acidic. The proper nutrients need to be added, so each plant grows to it's full potential.
Designing a year-round garden includes choosing appropriate plants for your region. Depending on where you live, you can use any combination of perennials, annuals and container plantings for these all-season flower gardens. Foliage is a must to fill in and create interest. It is best to choose at least two types of plants that will flower together during each season.
If you would like to enjoy year-round color in your flower beds, you have to go to the garden center in spring with one concept foremost in your mind: continuous sequence of bloom. Simply picking out plants that bear great-looking flowers in late spring will not get the job done. They look wonderful at the time, but you must think ahead to when they will not be in bloom.
There needs to be plants that flower both before and after each other, to keep the interest and color flowing. Foliage plants help here, too, as mentioned above. You also must add some evergreens to your landscaping to have visual interest in your yard 365 days a year.
Planting trees and shrubs, especially flowering ones are a great idea to achieve year round cover. They offer interest through their form and foliage as well as through their flowers. Any gardener seeking great color needs perennial flowers, shrubs, grasses and annual flowers.
Owner of PS Garden Whisperers.