“Are we seeing more snakes than usual this spring?” They seem to be everywhere I look!” -Not that I know of; but we seem to go thru this same time every spring. Weather is nice so we’re all spending a lot of time outside. Warm days but not hot yet, so the snakes are getting out and sunning a lot and warming up. Plus it’s mating season. So, put it all together and that’s usually why we see more snakes this time of the year. Most are the common garter snake, but Ohio has quite a collection of snakes that can be found around the state – with only three venomous snakes. You can buy or print a copy of ‘A Pocket Guide to Ohio Snakes’ on the internet.
“Is it too late to try to attract hummingbirds into our yard?” -Absolutely not! First, get that hummingbird feeder(s) out and available. Then look to plant flowering plants hummers enjoy. You’ll find many of those plants also help attract butterflies and bees as well! Here are a few tips for you:
Try www.hummingbirds.net to learn more and watch their migration. -Hummers seem to always be looking for food, but they do rest, perch, and build nests. Plant and create a nice environment close by for resting and nesting. -Use hummingbird feeders. -Garden for hummers when trying to attract and keep them in your yard. No sense of smell, so plant flowers having nectar and great visibility. The red and orange flowers get the most attention. Just like with the butterflies, reduce the use of pesticides in your garden. Host Plants for Hummingbirds: -Morning Glory, Scarlet Runners, Trumpet vine, Honeysuckle vine, Butterfly bush, Azalea, Bee Balm, Butterfly Weed, Delphinium, Garden Lilies, Hosta, Hibiscus, Salvia, Penstemon, Catmint, Lobelia, Daylily, Coral Bells, Coneflower, Campanula, Columbine, Agastache, Canna, Cardinal Flower, Hollyhock, Foxglove, Pentas, Fuchsia, Impatiens, Petunias, Yucca, Four O’Clocks, Phlox, plus many more!
“We’re getting ready to create a new perennial bed. We’ve removed the sod, so what do you suggest our next move would be?” I’d say get yourself some good compost or my favorite, Pine Soil Conditioner (pinefines), which is what the Cincinnati Botanical Garden and Zoo uses to prep their beds, get a nice layer on top of the soil, and till it in. I’d even use it as a soil amendment as I planted, and for the initial topdressing mulch.
“I planted a hydrangea last week and watered it in, but every time I see it during the day, it’s wilted. I keep watering, but it keeps wilting. What do I do now?” – Stop watering it unless the soil / root ball is dry!!! Unfortunately, hydrangeas and a few other plants will do that this time of the year. They are losing moisture from the new growth and leaves, but are unable to replace it fast enough thru the roots and stems, so the plant wilts. But, once the sun goes down, moisture loss slows and the plant recovers. So, if that’s the case with your hydrangea (wilts during the day but looks normal later that evening or by morning), just make sure you have even moisture in the soil, but DO NOT over water it! Check before you water to be sure. If they stay too wet, the roots begin to decline, rot, and you lose the entire plant.
“We have these tiny red mites crawling on our patio, patio wall, furniture, etc. Are those clover mites and how do I get rid of them?” -This is one of Buggy Joe Boggs’ favorites, so we’ll let him take this one. “RETURN OF THE RED MITES! At around this time last season, I talked about huge numbers of tiny, fast-moving bright red mites scurrying around in sunny locations on picnic tables, patios, sidewalks, concrete retaining walls, and on the outside walls of homes and buildings. In fact, large gatherings of these mites were observed in a number of Midwestern, eastern, and southern states. Well, they’re baaack! I’ve been getting reports and even snapping a few pictures of these mini-mites zipping around on concrete. The mites have been tentatively identified as Balaustiummurorum (family Erythraeidae) and they are sometimes referred to as “concrete mites,” or “pavement mites,” based on locations where congregate. The mites are considered nuisance pests since they don’t feed on plants other than on pollen. In fact, they are primarily predators and only eat pollen to augment their meat diet. We don’t know why these mites appear in large numbers, and we don’t know if things will be as bad as last season. However, last season’s outbreak taught us that the onslaught is short lived and the mites should disappear in a few weeks.”
“Is it true that when my summer blooming spirea finish flowering, I can prune them and they’ll flower again?” -Yes, surprisingly enough. Simply take the hedge shears (one time that hedge shears can be used!) and shear off just below the spent flowers into the first inch or two of the foliage. Reshapes the spirea, and the new growth typically flowers again.
“We are already getting some mosquitoes! Any suggestions for us?”
-Protect yourself. That is always step number one. With the warmer temperatures now here, you can count on the mosquitoes – unless you do all you can to prevent them! Remember you best defense against mosquitoes in your yard, is to eliminate possible breeding grounds. And that would be any source of standing water. ANY! For the most part, the mosquitoes you experience are from your yard or your immediate neighbor’s yard, so if you can eliminate the standing water, you’ll do a nice job reducing mosquitoes. Your next best defense is protecting yourself using mosquito repellents, wearing proper clothing, and trying to be in the yard when the mosquitoes aren’t. Eliminate standing water, and protect yourself. Those are the top 2 ways to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes in your yard. The mosquito traps, bombs, sprays, plants etc are all other things to try, AFTER doing the first 2! If you have dog water bowls, bird baths, and wading pools or ponds, be sure to drain and replace the water at least once per week. That ensures the mosquito eggs won’t have time to mature. Make sure when you water the lawn, that there is no puddling areas. If so, look to re-grade and correct the drainage. If you have an ornamental pond, stock it with mosquito larvae eating fish (goldfish work), or use retail products which are added to the water to kill the larvae (Mosquito Dunks, etc.).
“Do soaker hoses really work?” -Yes, they “really work” if you leave them on long enough to do what you want them to do, and that’s slow drip deep watering. But many folks don’t let them run long enough to deep water. We can’t tell you how long the hose needs to be on for a deep watering. You’ll have to physically dig down and see how deep it has watered during the amount of time it’s been watering. Then calculate times needed. But for a slow drip watering (with little to no runoff or evaporation) in annual, perennial and landscape beds, a soaker hose does a nice job – assuming you let it ‘soak’ long enough.
“Is it okay that my tomatoes lower leaves are turning yellow?” -Not really. Yes, they will do that naturally as the vines grow, but they can also get a few soil borne diseases that start on the lower limbs and work up the plant. Might suggest you pick off the lower leaves about 12-14 inches above the ground (as the plant grows and gets some height to it), and mulch around the tomato plants. Removing the lower leaves takes away surface areas for soil borne diseases to splash up onto, and the mulch helps create a barrier between the soil and the plant to reduce diseases splashing up onto the plant. By the way, with heavy rainfalls, the rains can actually beat the oxygen out of the soil, as well as leaching out many of the nutrients. As the soil dries, a little hand cultivating (stay away from the plants roots) and a light side dressing of an all purpose garden food may be needed.