Mid-Atlantic

April, 2008
Regional Report

Plant to Attract Ladybugs

Most ladybugs are beneficial predatory insects that we want in our gardens. Encourage adults that are red or orange with black markings, and the small, black alligator-like larvae with red markings. They eat aphids, mites, small insects, and insect eggs. They also like pollen and nectar. Invite them to stay by planting dill, fennel, dandelion, wild carrot, yarrow, tansy, Angelica, and cosmos 'Sensation' series. Discourage their cousins, the Mexican bean beetle (orange with eight black spots per wing cover, and oval, yellowish larvae), and the squash beetle (orange or yellow with seven black spots per wing cover). Those adults and larvae feed on plants.

Deal With the Deer

Wish I could advise you about which repellent is effective but I'm still looking for that silver bullet. I do know that very hungry deer are nibbling most every bit of green they see including my azaleas and hydrangeas, and pulling out the pansies. They're randy with spring fever. So I'm trying all sorts of repellants, sprinkling blood meal and other powders and granules on the soil, spraying various commercial concoctions. Also will be covering and surrounding tasty tenders with gridded wire to protect them until wild grasses and other meadow/woodland greens grow enough to satisfy the deers' appetite.

Loosen Fibrous Roots

Loosen roots when planting azaleas, rhodies, spirea, lilacs, or most any shrub in a nursery pot. These fibrous rootballs are often pot-bound -- thickly matted from edge to edge inside the pot. Scratch, rough up, even cut through and tease out matted roots so water can penetrate and roots can grow into surrounding soil. Have you ever dug up a dead azalea to find no roots extending beyond the original tight root ball? Enough said.

Cut Back Ornamental Grasses and Trim Liriope

Does your lilyturf look tattered? Are your ornamental grasses colorless, crackling and breaking? Cut back ornamental grasses, leaving 4 to 6 inches of foliage, preferably before they start to green up. Cutback will encourage leafing out. For lilyturf (Liriope), clip off last season's weathered leaves just above this spring's green leaf sprouts.

Divide Ornamental Grasses

Spring is a good time to divide cool-season, warm-season, and evergreen grasses and sedges. Divide to make more plants, renew a mature clump when the center or other areas have died, and revive a flagging plant. Small grasses such as lilyturf and carex often can be pulled apart. Large grass clumps can be dense, thickly stemmed and rooted. They may need to be cut apart with a sharp spade, pulled apart with heavy-duty garden forks, or cut into pieces with a hacksaw. Save your expensive pruning saw for more delicate branch pruning.

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