May, 2012
Regional Report

Test Soil Before Fertilizing Azaleas

According to the U. S. National Arboretum website, established azaleas often don't require additional fertilizer. Too much fertilizer may push weak growth that encourages pests like lace bugs and azalea whiteflies. Test soil for nutrient levels and pH. State universities like Penn State, Rutgers, and Cornell sell testing kits and provide instruction based on test results. If the soil's low in nutrients, the arboretum recommends lightly scattering only a few tablespoons of an acid-forming, granular, slow-release fertilizer on soil under the shrub.

Prune Off Dead Lilac Flowers

Prune to remove dead lilac flowers as soon as possible after they wilt. Best not to let the brown flower heads go to seed. Clip off the dead flowers. Prune to shape shrub. Next season's flowers form early in the lilac branches. So late pruning will remove next spring's flowers.

Prune Forsythia for Shape

Forsythia blooms on the previous year's wood. Just after the golden yellow flowers die, prune to shape the shrub. Fertilize too.

Edge the Beds

Cutting an edge around a flower bed is like framing a photograph. The garden's beauty and form are enhanced by the edge's definition. Some gardeners prefer a soft, shallow edge. Others like a deep, sharp trough. Of course, remove weeds and grass as you cut with a square point spade.

Care for Your Faves; Think New and Improved Too

Yes, we certainly have our favorite tools. Familiarity and comfort count. So keep them in good shape with sharp blades and oiled, polished handles. Be open-minded about new, ergonomic tools as well. Hold the potential pruner, trowel, cultivator in your hand. Does it feel balanced, easy-to-use, fit your grip? If so, go for it.

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