How To Control Japanese Beetles

The Japanese beetle, Popillia japonica, is a highly destructive nonnative plant pest that has become a threat to American agriculture. Homeowners encounter this pest during the summer months as the adults fly and aggregate in clusters to feed upon plant leaves. These skeletonized leaves, missing soft leaf tissues, are a tell tall sign of Japanese beetle activity. If you are having problems with these insects then continue to read and learn about their life cycle, what they like to eat and finally methods of control.

Adult Japanese beetle

How to control Japanese beetles begins with understanding the insect’s life cycle.  The life cycle of a beetle is known as a complete metamorphosis, meaning it has four very different stages: egg, larval, pupal and adult. The eggs are laid in the soil about two to four inches down where they can absorb moisture. A female can lay about 40 eggs over her entire lifetime. Eventually, these eggs develop into beetle larvae or grubs which feed on the roots plants and grasses. The larvae are typically white in color and go through several molts. Larvae are mobile and can become so numerous that they often destroy lawns and turf in golf courses.  Larvae will then pupate, change color and transform into adults which leave the soil and begin to immediately search for food.

As adults,  Japanese beetles are also destructive plant pests. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), adults forage on the leaves and fruits of several hundred species of trees, shrubs, vines, and vegetables. A telltale sign of their presence is skeletonized leaves and large, irregular holes. The Japanese beetle is considered the most widespread turf-grass pest in the United States.

As we mentioned earlier, the Japanese beetle is a nonnative or invasive species, an organism outside its native distributional range that was most likely introduced by human activity.  The Japanese beetle is native to eastern Asia, however, it was first found in the United States in a nursery in southern New Jersey in 1916 probably coming over with a shipment of ornamental flower bulbs. Since this organism had no native biological controls their populations exploded as seen by the USDA map below.

Japanese Beetle Distribution Map
The Japanese beetle has become a serious plant pest and a threat to American agriculture.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) comes from the idea that if a pest population is targeted then beneficial insects and other organisms in the environment will be impacted as well. So IPM serves as a means of controlling pest population to levels that lessen their economic impact. It is not the eradication of an invasive species rather IPM can be implemented using biological, chemical, cultural and mechanical methods that are complementary to each other. It is important to understand that using an integrated pest management approach will not completely eliminate Japanese beetles from your property.  These particular insects are here to stay, we just need to minimize its impact on our environment.

Although the Japanese beetle feeds on almost 300 species of plants, it feeds sparingly or not at all on many cultivated plants. The various kinds of plants on your property can significantly influence the susceptibility of your property and plants to Japanese beetle damage.

Wood Plants Resistant to Adult Japanese Beetles
Hemlock Yew Northern red oak Pine
Arborvitae Spruce Magnolia Sweetgum
Juniper Holly Ash Forsythia
Dogwood Redbud Hickory Boxwood
Herbaceous Plants Resistant to Adult Japanese Beetles
Violet Nasturtium Sedum Poppy
Forget-Me-Not Lantana Impatiens Hosta
Foxglove Larkspur Coreopsis Lily of the valley
Begonia Dusty-Miller Columbine Ageratum

Pesticides which are useful against adult beetles include Permethrin, Deltamethrin, and Bifenthrin. Homeowners and gardeners need first to assess the risks and benefits of pesticide use. This includes application timing, toxicity, and the fate of pesticides in the environment.

pyrethrin chemical structure
Pyrethrin chemical structure is modified to produce insecticides effective against the Japanese beetle’s nervous system.

Biological controls include, Heterorhabditis bacteriophora, is a species of entomopathogenic nematode known commonly as beneficial nematodes. They are microscopic and are used in gardening as a form of biological pest control against Japanese beetles.

A naturally occurring soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis or just Bt is used as a microbial insecticide. The Bt strain used for the Japanese beetle is for grub stage only. Bt is an insect digestive system poison that must be ingested to be effective.

Mechanical traps can easily capture thousands of Japanese beetles. This trapping method is an easy and inexpensive way to reduce beetle populations and reduce egg laying. According to the USDA, under favorable conditions, a trap will capture approximately 75 percent of the beetles that approach it. Because these traps attract more beetles than they capture, be sure to place traps away from your favorite plants and vegetable garden. Not only are you attracting and capturing adults on your property but also from the surrounding area. So install traps at the borders of your property. Trap placement should be timed to coincide with the emergence of adult Japanese beetles in your area usually between early June and late August.

japenese beetle lure
A chemical lure using floral volatiles to attract males and females. Additionally, it contains a sex pheromone to attract male Japanese beetles.

Integrated Pest Management to Reduce Japanese Beetle Populations

  • Remove older fruit from the ground, the odor of such fruit will attract beetles
  • When considering new plantings use trees, shrubs, and other plants that are not preferred by the beetle.
  • Make use of both chemical and biological controls
  • Use of mechanical traps baited with sex pheromone and floral volatiles

Growing Hops In A Container

hops cones

What do you do if you want to grow hops, Humulus lupulus, and you have limited space?  Not every craft brewer has access to a plot of land or even a backyard. Maybe you live in a condo with a sunny balcony or maybe there’s just not enough room to build a hops arbor.  So if you are living in the urban jungle, then the answer is to grow hops in containers.  You can do it! It’s easy and with these gardening tips you will get up to speed and growing hops in no time.

Scout the location:

Hops love the sun so pick a location that receives adequate light throughout the day.   This can be a porch, patio, deck, driveway, yard or anywhere that gets the right amount of light. Put some effort into your decision, you need to find an area that gets as much sun as possible from the late morning to afternoon. Hops grow vigorously within USDA hardiness zones 4 through 8. Hops are a hardy perennial plant that will actually thrive in climates that experience all four seasons.

Get your rhizomes:

There are many different varieties of hops to choose from based on key factors for brewing.  We chose to grow Centennial hops, the rhizomes are pictured below.  The first three are healthy with new bud growth and root production. The last shows little development yet it was still viable. Remember, you are planting female plants since they produce the hops cones necessary for  brewing.  Chances are you will order hops online.  We ordered these from a seller on eBay. If you receive rhizomes by mail, refrigerate them prior to planting.

hops rhizomes

Alpha acids from hops contribute to the bitterness in beer. The more alpha acids the more bittering potential. The actual alpha acids vary from year to year depending on the weather, harvest conditions, and storage. Here is a list of common hops and their alpha acid content.

Common Hops Alpha Acid Content
Cascade 6
Centennial 10.5
Chinook 13
Citra 11
Galaxy 13.5
Mosaic 11.5
Willamette 5.5

Planting time:

Obtain a half-barrel planter or another container with a diameter and depth of at least 20 inches. Make sure the container has several holes along the bottom to allow for adequate drainage. Fill the pot with potting soil, dig a 4″ trench and lay the rhizome in with the buds upward and root facing downward then cover with adequate potting soil.  We made a sturdy trellis from garden fencing. Despite their large size, hops grow well in containers and if provided with abundant water and ample supplemental nutrients they will produce, to your delight, an abundance of cones.

Care and Feeding:

Be sure to water your hops as needed, thoroughly wet the soil in the container.  Never let your plants begin to become dry, brown and brittle. These are indicators that your little plants are asking for more water.  Alternatively, if they begin showing discolored, yellow leaves, then dial back, they are probably receiving too much water. Feed container-grown hops plants with a liquid fertilizer diluted to quarter-strength. Apply the fertilizer every four weeks from the time the vines emerge to when they begin to develop cones.

Training Time:

As your hops grow in length, they need to be attached to the trellis.  Weave the bine in and out in a clockwise direction for best results. Prune the hops bines once they overgrow their trellis. Remove the leaves from the lower 1 foot of bine to increase air circulation and decrease the likelihood of pests and disease.

Harvest:

As summer passes and fall begins, it is time to start thinking about harvesting your hops! You should expect to begin harvesting sometime between mid-August and September. As the cones reach maturity, the tips of the cones will begin to turn light brown.  First-year plants may produce as much as ½ pound of hops, while established plants can produce in excess of 2 pounds per year.

 

 

 

10 EASIEST FLOWERS FOR BEGINNERS

Caring for flowers should be easy, fun and enjoyable.  Often beginner gardeners lose interest because some plants are more difficult to care for than others and maybe their plants failed to flower.  Why not focus on plants that are easy to grow? Your chances of success will go up tremendously. As your experience and your passion for gardening continue to grow so will the different varieties that will thrive under your care.

In this post, we add to our growing list with the 10 easiest flowers for beginners.

Sunflowers

sunflowers

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: Annual

Flower Colors: Yellows, Red hues, Orange hues, browns, and mixed

Plant Height: 3-16 feet

  • Blooms during summer
  • Drought and heat tolerant
  • Attracts birds, bees and butterflies
  • Thrive in full sun
  • Tolerates most soil types

Zinnias

zinnias

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: Annual

Flower Colors: Multicolor, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, White, Yellow

Plant Height: 20-24 inches

  • Blooms during summer
  • The shape of bloom differs by variety
  • Attracts butterflies
  • Prefers loamy, well-drained soil
  • Sensitive to frost
  • Has moderate water requirements
  • Grows best in full sun

Marigolds

marigolds

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: Annual

Flower Colors: Multicolor, Orange, Red, White, Yellow

Plant Height: 6-36 inches

  • Blooms through spring, summer, and fall
  • Helps repel mosquitoes and other insects
  • Prefers well-drained loamy soil
  • Water well, but allow the soil to dry between waterings
  • Best grown in full sun

Morning Glories

morning glories

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: Annual

Flower Colors: Blue, Pink, Purple, Red, White

Plant Height: 6 to 15 feet

  • Blooms from summer through fall
  • Support climbers with structures like trellises or arches
  • Attracts birds, bees and butterflies
  • Requires fertile, loamy soil
  • Water weekly during dry periods
  • require full sun

Pansies

pansies

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: Annuals (can be perennial/biennial in Zones 6-10)

Flower Colors: Blue, Multicolor, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, White, Yellow

Plant Height: 6-9 inches

  • Attract butterflies
  • Like rich, well-drained soil
  • Needs regular watering
  • Will bloom in full sun or partial sun
  • Start pansy seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost

Coneflowers

coneflowers

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Flower Colors: Pink, Purple, Red, White, bicolor and more

Plant Height: Up to 6 feet

  • Will bloom for months
  • Make great cut flowers
  • Attracts bees and other pollinators
  • Sow seeds in spring or fall
  • Like rich, loamy well-drained soil
  • Plant in full sun

Lupines

lupines

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 4-8 (often grown as an annual)

Flower Colors: Blue, white, yellow, pink, and purple

Plant Height: Up to 4 feet

  • Well suited for use in borders
  • Produces seeds that will self-sow
  • Attracts butterflies
  • Likes loamy, well-drained soil
  • Provide deep watering, and allow to dry in between
  • Plant in full sun

Geraniums

geranium flowers

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 10-11 (grown as an annual elsewhere)

Flower Colors: White, pink, red, lavender, purple, magenta, and rose

Plant Height: 3-24 inches

  • Low-maintenance color from spring until fall
  • Good for use in window boxes, hanging baskets or containers
  • Prefer sandy soil
  • Like to be watered regularly, but don’t over-water
  • Maximum blooming requires 4-6 hours of sunlight daily

Lavender

lavender flowers

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 5-9

Flower Colors: Blue, Pink, Purple, White

Plant Height: 20-24 inches

  • Technically an herb, this hardy plant requires minimal care once established
  • Blooms throughout the summer
  • Attracts butterflies
  • Requires well-drained soil
  • Should be watered deeply, but infrequently
  • Plant in full sun

Daylilies

day lilies

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Flower Colors: Orange, Pink, Red, White, Yellow

Plant Height: 12-48 inches

  • Flower continuously over a long period of time
  • Excellent for massing in large areas
  • Grow in rich, well-drained soil
  • Attracts butterflies
  • Provide deep watering in summer
  • Flower best in full sun to partial sun

How to Grow Raspberries in Containers

Imagine how great it would be to start your day by picking delicious raspberries for your morning smoothie or breakfast cereal. Homeowners with limited space can grow berries in containers and it’s really not a hard thing to do. What’s important is to select the best variety, the right container, and a sunny location. For gardeners with limited space or for apartment dwellers who grow on a porch or patio, growing berries in containers allow a level of flexibility not realized by inground plants.  In this post, we will give tips for successfully growing raspberries in containers.

growing raspberry plants

Choosing the right variety:

Berry plants are great candidates for container gardening, especially if you pay careful attention to which varieties you choose to grow.  Some raspberry varieties are just too large to grow in containers. Fortunately, plant breeders have been busy at work producing container-friendly plants.  Newer cultivars like Raspberry Shortcake® a dwarf, thornless variety, are best suited to growing in large pots.

Choosing The Right Container:

When choosing a pot, always opt for the largest container possible. Plan on needing a minimum volume of eight gallons per raspberry bush. Do not pick a tapered pot and regardless of its size, there should also be a drainage hole in the bottom of the pot. Roots allowed to stay in standing water will eventually rot. Fill the containers in your small-space garden with a 50/50 mixture of potting soil and compost. Mulch the soil surface to reduce water loss.

Sun Requirements:

All fruiting plants, whether you’re growing raspberries in containers or in the ground, produce the most berries in full sun. Provide at least six to eight hours of sun per day. Planting in containers provides for the flexibility of moving plants to different patio locations to receive full sun each day.

Pruning:

Raspberries are perennials that usually set fruit on two-year-old canes. Sometimes plants may produce fruit in the first year, however, full bearing begins in the second year.

Final Tips:

  • Raspberry Shortcakes® grow successfully in large containers
  • Grow in full sun
  • Water regularly
  • Fertilize with an organic fertilizer in early and late spring
  • Let the raspberry bushes go dormant in winter, protect from deep freezing
  • After three years transplant your raspberries from container to inground

Top 5 Deer-Resistant Plants For The Northeast

DEER-PROOF YOUR GARDEN NATURALLY

If you live in a region where white-tailed deer are prevalent, consider plants and shrubs that deer are less likely to feed on. Deer tend to stay away from poisonous plants like foxgloves and monkshood. These common garden flowers are also very toxic to humans so I do not recommend planting them at all. Deer are deterred by fragrant plants with strong scents. Herbs such as sage, mint, lavender, and bearded irises are among those smelly plants that deer tend to avoid. Fuzzy or thorny plants tend to be avoided by deer as well. Fuzzy plants like lamb’s ear are off the menu and prickly ones such as roses and hollies. In the Northeast, the heaviest garden browsing occurs from October through February. Lastly, if deer are desperate for food they will eat just about anything that grows so be prepared for some damage.

1. Lavender, belongs to a genus of flowering plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae. It is native to Europe, Africa, the Mediterranean, and China. Many members of the genus are cultivated extensively in temperate climates as ornamental plants for landscape use, for use as culinary herbs, and commercially for the extraction of essential oils. Deer dislike the heavy scent of lavender.

lavender-1117274_960_720

  • Scientific Name: Lavandula angustifolia
  • USDA Zones: 5 to 8
  • Height: 18 – 24 inches
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun

2. Junipers are coniferous plants that are members of the cypress family.  Junipers are among the most popular conifers to be cultivated as ornamentals for gardens. These cultivars have been selected and bred to produce a wide range of forms, and colors. Junipers have a very heavy odor that tends to repel deer with sensitive noses.

juniper-662312_960_720

  • Scientific Name: Juniperus
  • USDA Zones: 4 to 11
  • Height: Up to 15 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun – Partial shade

3. Boxwoods are evergreen shrubs that can be used as hedges, as screening plants along borders and accents to your landscape.  Why are boxwoods deer resistant? It’s because the foliage contains aromatic alkaloids, so deer would rather forage on something tastier.

spherical-boxwood-bushes

  • Scientific Name: Buxus sempervirens
  • USDA Zones: 5 to 8
  • Height: Up to 20 feet
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun – Partial shade

4. Holly is often cultivated by plant nurseries for their use as an evergreen ornamental plant. It is planted as a shrub or as a slower growing ornamental tree with over 1,000 cultivars availableThe vast majority of holly species are highly deer-resistant.

holly-573851_960_720

  • Scientific Name: Ilex opaca
  • USDA Zones: 5 to 9
  • Height: 15 feet to 60 feet tall
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun – Partial shade

5. Marigolds provide a wealth of color to your garden. These hardy annual plants will bloom reliably from early summer to the first frost in autumn. Depending on the variety you choose, marigolds are available in a range of gold, yellow and orange shades. Based on observation, deer at least seem to be put off by the strong smell of marigolds. Still, a border of marigolds or rows placed between plantings is sometimes enough to deter deer.

marigold-2161520_960_720

  • Scientific Name: Tagetes 
  • USDA Zones: 5 to 8
  • Height: 18 – 24″
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun – Partial Shade

Growing Marigold Flowers

Marigolds provide a wealth of color to your garden. These hardy annual plants will bloom reliably from early summer to the first frost in autumn. Depending on the variety you choose, marigolds are available in a range of gold, yellow and orange shades.  Marigolds are easy to grow with no fuss adding long-lasting color and texture to garden borders, beds and containers.

Although there are many different types of marigolds, as gardeners we are familiar with four. Tagetes erecta, known as African marigold or Aztec marigold, is the tallest and most upright. French marigold, Tagetes patula, are somewhat smaller and more compact. Their demure flowers are both elegant and eye-catching. Other varieties include Mexican marigold, Tagetes lucida, and Signet marigold, Tagetes tenuifolia, both make wonderful edging, window boxes, and containers.

Marigolds grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 2 – 11.

marigold flowers

FACT SHEET


Botanical Name: Tagetes Days to Germination: 5-8 Days
Plant Type: Flower Days To Bloom: 30-45 Days
Color: gold, orange Planting Depth: 1/4″
Plant Type: Annual Seed Spacing: 8″
Scent: Bitter Growing Height: 6-10″
Grows Best: In Full Sun Best Container Size: 12″

HOW TO DEADHEAD MARIGOLDS

When a blossom starts to go bad, cut its stem back to the nearest set of leaves.
This will encourage the plant to produce more blossoms, not only will your garden look neater, but the plants will be healthier and deadheading helps to extend the flowering season.

Best Plants For Beginners

Caring for flowers, vegetables and herbs should be fun and enjoyable.  Often beginner gardeners lose interest because some plants are more difficult to care for than others, maybe their plants did not flower or bear fruit. So, it is best to focus on the plants that are easy to grow and your chances of success will go up tremendously. As your experience and your passion for gardening continue to grow so will the different varieties that will thrive under your care.

Here are some of the best plants for beginners:

Flowers

french-marigold

Marigolds have beautiful flowers that add a wealth of color to your garden. They are annuals so they need to be planted new each growing season. It is said that marigolds keep pests away from your garden.  This plant is easy to grow and provides bright blooms all summer long. Sow seeds directly or buy a flat from your local garden center. Remove dead blossoms to keep new buds coming.

Zinnias are annuals, so they grow for only one season but you cut and enjoy these longstemmed multicolored flowers all summer. Pinching off dead blooms makes for healthier plants and more blooms. Choosing a location that gets full sun is essential.  Direct sow seeds and you should see seedlings in about seven days. They will continue to grow without any special treatment.

Vegetables

Lettuce1

Leaf Lettuce is the no brainer of vegetables.  We have had excellent results with Burpee’s Green Ice variety.  It matures quickly, and as soon as it matures you can pick them and toss into a nice salad.  Lettuce also grows well in containers. Watering in the morning and harvesting in the afternoon guarantees crisp leaves.

Bush Beans are quick growing and produce a bountiful harvest.  They should be sown every few weeks to get a succession crop that will continue through the summer.  If you do it right, you will have so many beans that you can feed the neighbors. Plant beans in a sunny location, four to six inches apart, in rows that are spaced at sixteen inches.  Keep your bean plants well watered.

Herbs

leavesBasil

Basil is a versatile, delicious herb that tastes great in pesto and other Italian dishes.  Basil loves warm weather and sun. It is incredibly easy to start from seed. We start basil seeds indoors then transplant young plants into outside containers after any threat of frost. Keep harvesting the leaves for the entire season and be sure to remove the flower buds to keep the plant producing.

Lemon balm is a perennial herb from the mint family.  The leaves are used as a herb, in teas, and also as a flavoring. This herb complements chicken and fish and is used whole, crushed, or chopped. The plant is used to attract bees to make honey and its essential oil is used as an ingredient in aromatherapy. Lemon balm is best grown in partial shade.

 

How To Grow Your Best Tomatoes Yet

Who doesn’t love a fresh homegrown tomato? There is simply no substitute for tomatoes picked at the height of their freshness.  It’s just one of life’s simple pleasures to bite into a ripe tomato, it is simply delicious. So how do you create the perfect tomato this season? Here’s a list of the top five tips for growing your best tomatoes yet.

red tomatoes

  1. Choose your sunniest garden spot, because tomatoes soak up the sun just like water. They need at least seven hours of sunshine a day.  More sun equals more fruit.  Don’t crowd tomato plants, planting density needs to be low, with three feet between plants and four feet between rows. This will let extra light into the lower portions of the mature plants and improve airflow.
  2. Plant deeply and bury the stem. Tomatoes will root along their stems. So if you have a long, leggy plant, dig a trench and lay the stem sideways, bending gently upward. This extra root growth will produce a stronger, more robust plant.  Your tomato plants will quickly straighten up and grow toward the sun. Just be careful not to drive your support stake or cage into the buried stem.
  3. It’s all about timing. Whether you start your own seedlings or pick them up from your local Garden Center, tomatoes love warmth. Soil temperatures should be consistently over 60 degrees before planting outside.
  4. Mulch your tomatoes after the soil has warmed. Although mulching conserves water and prevents soilborne diseases from getting up onto leaves, if you put mulch down too early, it may shade and cool the soil. Remember tomatoes love heat. After temperatures become consistently warm, you can add a layer of mulch to retain moisture.
  5. Water regularly and deeply while the fruits are developing. Irregular watering, like missing a week and then trying it make up with excess watering, leads to blossom end rot and cracking of the tomato skins. You and your tomatoes need to be on the same schedule and so ensure your plants get at least 1 inch of water per week. Watch the weather report, if it’s going to be a hot dry spell, plants need more water.

 

WATERING TIPS FOR A HEALTHY GARDEN

Water is our most precious resource.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could save your time and money by just following a few tips?  Plentiful spring rains are on their way but soon the summer sun will beat down relentlessly, scorching plants, lawns, and trees. And it is during this dry time we need to ask, is it the right time to water?  Will it be enough to prevent the plants from drying out? While water is essential for any garden plant, other factors such as soil, humidity, and sunlight can make a big difference as well.

man-hand-garden-growth

Here are five tips for a “Water-Wise” garden and remember being “Water Wise” not only conserves water but actually helps you achieve a healthy garden. Most importantly, watch the weather forecast and try to fine-tune your watering schedule.

  1. Water early in the morning, just as the sun rises, to avoid excess evaporation. If you wait until the heat of the day to water, it’s too late.  If you water early, plant leaves will dry over the course of the day and prevent fungal growth.
  2. Encourage rooting by watering infrequently, deeply and thoroughly. Keep in mind that tomatoes can have roots that are two feet deep while other garden plants have much shallower root systems.  A weekly soaking is better than a daily sprinkling.
  3. Look for a water nozzle with adjustable spray patterns to give your plants individual care.  You can damage a plant with a forceful stream of water.
  4. Try using a soaker hose under a layer of mulch.  Water is released along the entire length of the hose.  This setup will slowly deliver water to your shrubs and garden plants. Automate your system by attaching a timer at the faucet to deliver water on time to thirsty plants.
  5. Add a layer of mulch around your plants as it will help to reduce soil evaporation, suppress weeds and keep the soil cool. Add a 2-inch layer of mulch or compost around your vegetables for this benefit.

Pruning Shears and Loppers, Essential Gardening Tools

When pruning woody trees and shrubs, the right tool makes all the difference.  The two must-have tools for pruning trees and shrubs whether you are a gardener, homeowner, or professional landscaper are pruning shears and loppers.  We’ll go into the basics of each tool type, important aspects such as the blade type and handle composition.  How to choose pruner or lopper? Well, it is mostly about size, branch size and whether those branches living or dead wood.

trimmedTrees

Why Prune Plants?

The moment you prune a plant, it changes its form and how it will grow. Pruning helps to enhance plant health. Think of it as the preventive maintenance of the plant world. Pruning rids the plant of its dead, damaged and diseased parts. Branches that rub against each other or point downward also need to be pruned.  Generally speaking, pruning allows you to have the plant in the size that is proportionate with the landscape. To summarize, we prune plants:

  • To enhance plant appearance.
  • To prevent injury and property damage.
  • To control plant size.
  • To enhance fruiting and flowering.

Pruning shears – It’s all about precision

These are the most useful of your gardening tools.  Pruning shears come in two types based on their cutting blades.  They are known as either bypass or anvil pruners.  Some may also have a ratcheting action to increase the user’s mechanical advantage, an excellent feature if you have wrist problems.  We’ll describe both here, but you should probably buy and use bypass pruners.

Bypass pruners have a single-edged blade that slices past a thick base as it closes. Anvil pruners have a blade that slices to the center of a wide lower base, contacting that base at the completion of the cut, like a hammer striking an anvil. The anvil pruner is more likely to crush delicate plant tissues, so only use them only on dead wood. A perfect example would be removing dead canes from Hydrangea.

fiskars-floral-scissors-snips-392792-1001-64_1000

Bypass Pruning Shears are your best choice.    Source: HomeDepot

 

Loppers – Get the job done!

If you are cutting branches that are up to 2 inches in diameter, then you need loppers. These are beefy pruners with long handles. While the longer handles will give you added reach to prune higher branches, that’s not their only true advantage. Long handles on loppers give you increased leverage so it can slice through thicker branches with ease.

Loppers are available in anvil or bypass types like their smaller kin. The anvil lopper is great for cutting through dead wood and can usually handle thicker branches without a problem while the bypass lopper is best for cutting through plants that are still alive. Because they leave cleaner cuts, the plant will have a much easier time healing from the pruning.

loppers-394802-1001-64_1000

Bypass Garden Loppers make clean cuts with power. Source: HomeDepot

Pick your handles wisely

Handles are a big consideration as well and there are many different types to choose from. The traditional and most basic is wood, usually a strong and durable wood like ash is used. Some people prefer the feel of wood, I’ve inherited tools with wood handles and those tools work like new. Wood needs to be taken care of by adding a coat of wax to prevent water penetration from time to time.

Tools that have steel handles are very strong. However, they tend to be heavier than other handle types. Steel tools are usually coated with vinyl or plastic coatings. As a rule of thumb, you will wear out before your steel tool does due to its weight.  A good tradeoff between wood and steel are tools with aluminum handles. Aluminum is much lighter and for some, the lighter weight makes it easier to use.  Fiberglass, composite, and plastic handles are very strong,  lightweight and durable as well. These handles tend to be a little more expensive but the extra price is generally worth it.

Caring for your tools

Buy the best tools you can afford because they will pay for themselves in the long run. Good quality tools hold their edge longer and cut easier. Keep your tools sharpened because a sharp tool means less fatigue on your hands and increased user safety. A sharp pruner is not just easier to cut with, it also makes a cleaner cut that heals quickly.

To be able to use your pruning shears and loppers for extended periods of time, they need to be regularly oiled and kept sharp at all times. You should also check tool components on a regular basis, adjust or replace screws, bolts, springs, and blades. Remember, tools cost money, think of your gardening tools as an investment. Store them in a dry place to prevent rust and keep them in good working order.

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