Zip up your Plants

Remember not all fertilizers are created the same. Take the primary nutrient nitrogen needed to green plants and provide growth. You can get nitrogen in less expensive urea forms that are very water soluble and here today gone tomorrow activated by water and temperature. Organic, natural or more expensive advanced synthetic forms of nitrogen are slower release water insoluble fertilizers needing soil bacteria and healthy microbes or biology to make the nutrients available to the plant. In an era of need for instant “grass”-ification, often some sulfur or iron is added to fertilizer mixes to give the quick deep green we desire. The least expensive and most dramatic nitrogen for our plants is atmospheric nitrogen….the kind of green up you see all around you the morning after a nighttime lightning storm. Regardless, nitrogen is just one of 19 elements considered essential for plant growth. Primary nutrients, secondary nutrients and trace nutrients are all needed for healthy plants. Now that June has arrived and plants are actively working, growing, feeding, fruiting and blooming you need to “zip up your plants!” In June don’t forget to feed your plants or as I call it “zip up your plants” as they are actively growing and blooming in one of the best gardening months of the year!
June is an incredible month in Michigan for annual, perennial, herb and landscape plants. With the threat of frost gone and long days the growth and performance of landscape plants in June is phenomenal….this is what we’ve been waiting for! Don’t forget about own-root landscape roses in June. Heavy feeders, with the long light days of June into July these landscape workhorses put on a show!

Vigorous shrub Own Root Roses
Vigorous shrub Own Root Roses

Perennials shine in the month of June and annuals planted back in May come into their own as they establish roots and benefit from the long day length.
Hanging baskets purchased back in May need to be watched in this month. A slow release fertilizer combined with a water soluble fertilizer keeps them fed. Learn to tell from the weight of the basket if they need water. Sunny and windy days can quickly dry out hanging baskets. Even the Boston Ferns hanging from the porch on the north side of the house can quickly dry out on a windy June day. Soil polymers can help with moisture retention.
June is a great month to analyze your landscape as well as other’s landscapes. Make note of what you like and want in your landscape. For example deer resistant and stunning Alliums are in bloom in June. These are hardy bulbs in the onion family that you plant in fall for show stopping interest in May and June.

Allium....plant them in fall for a show in June!
Allium….plant them in fall for a show in June!

Look at other homes in your walks through the neighborhood or visit professionally landscaped gardens to note the changes you want to make this coming fall. By doing this you get a “hedge”-ucation and can zip up your plants and landscape for the following season. Remember June is a kick in the “plants” for all us plant lovers!

Money grows on trees!

Oh my “raking” back as some would say when faced with the prospect of clearing leaves from their yard. “Maple” I can help you. Did you know money grows on trees? It’s not a “figleaf” of my imagination. Money does grow on trees and it happens in a couple ways during the fall season.

"Maple" I can help you?
“Maple” I can help you?

The first is when the less dominant pigments in the foliage are unmasked by the loss of chlorophyll. As Billy Madison would say “Chlorophyll more like Boreophyll” but not really. The fascinating “accessory” pigments to the fragile energy producing dominant pigment chlorophyll wait their turn to take the stage. They account for only 1/3 of the amount that chlorophyll is present in a typical leaf, but they pack a punch. The accessory pigments Carotenoids (yellow to orange), Anthocyanin (red, pink, purple) and Xanthophyll/Tannins (tan to rust to brown) produce the fireworks in the fall. All season they played second fiddle to chlorophyll protecting the fragile Mr. C so to speak as suntan lotion from overexposure. When the growing season ends and winter approaches the chlorophyll’s work is done and it’s time to accessorize and go out on the town. The money part comes in when people like you and I take a drive to see the show. The brilliant fall colors are an important boon to tourism and support the economy of our communities in a “tree”-mendous way.

Carotenoid pigments create the banana yellow color in fall tree leaves
Carotenoid pigments create the banana yellow color in fall tree leaves

The second way money grows on trees is of direct benefit to you personally. You can have a green thumb by keeping more of your currency in your hands. You do this by using the nutrient value of a free sustainable resource (leaves) in your yard. Using the leaves in your garden adds organic matter (think earthworms), improves soil tilth and improves water holding capacity. But the big advantage, and here’s where the money part comes in, is the nutrients! Think about it… leaf senescence takes place valuable nutrients are being removed from the leaf transported into the tree for storage before being abscised from the tree. Not all the nutrients make it out before they fall. If you shred these leaves to speed breakdown or mulch them into fine pieces into your lawn it is a free slow release fertilizer!

"Raking" up is hard to why not instead harvest and harness the benefits of fallen foliage?
“Raking” up is hard to do….so why not instead harvest and harness the benefits of fallen foliage?

Leaves require microbial decomposition to release their nutrients which is a fancy way to say slow release fertilizer. I’m just “tilling” it like it is people! I was reading a recent study that analyzed the nutrients and chemicals in leaves from 100 municipal leaf samples. This study found that in 20 tons of leaves there is 400 pounds of nitrogen, 40 pounds of phosphorus and 152 pounds of potassium…..the big 3 NPK. There also was plenty of the minor nutrients like calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, iron, manganese, copper and zinc to go around. The nutrients from this example well exceeded $150.00 in value on the market. Like I said, free organic renewable slow release fertilizer. So money does grow on trees! What are you waiting for? Let’s travel at the speed of “ground” and may the “forest” be with you. Bon “foliage” my friends!

Don't be bush league! Use the slow release free fertilizer at your feet to improve your garden!
Don’t be bush league! Use the slow release free fertilizer at your feet to improve your garden!

More “Flower” to you

It’s planting time and we’re excited about the flowering annuals we selected on our shopping trip. They’re going to look great and visions of blooming colors are dancing in our head.

More “Flower” to you!

But what if they don’t meet up to our expectations? Plants like people have basic nutritional needs. And plants just like people can’t live on just energy drinks or water, you need a meal now and then. Water alone is not enough. Well more “flower” to you. If your annuals need to go “potty” and are in a hanging basket or pot every time you water nutrients are carried out the drainage holes with it. The nutrients need to be replaced.

I recommend a combination of water soluble and time release or granular fertilizer.


One is the energy drink and the other is meat and potatoes. The great thing about water soluble fertilizer is that is quickly available to the plants and can be taken in through the foliage or roots.

Slow release “dry” on the left and water soluble fertilizer on the right

Most water soluble fertilizers recommend use every 7 to 14 days. It depends on how often you’re watering the plant. You may want to consider using it more frequently than 14 days and going to half strength. Remember that even though many of today’s annuals are sold as “self cleaning” a good pinching or pruning now and then with a dose of water soluble fertilizer will rejuvenate blooming. A dry granular feed in combination with the water soluble in tandem will get you best results. The “dry” or slow release feed is the meat and potatoes. My favorites are Osmocote and Flower Tone. Osmocote because it’s easy to scoop into a pot and provides feeding for 3 months or more. Flower Tone because in addition to the Macro Nutrients it has essential Micro Nutrients and is affordable. More “Flower” to you!