Environment

For Sweet Results, Feed Acid Loving Plants

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Eye-popping azaleas. Elegant Japanese maple. Magnificent evergreens. Juicy blueberries. What do these garden favorites have in common? They all thrive in acidic soils.

Imagine enormous pink rhododendrons, evergreens that are vigorous and deep

green without any yellowing, and sweet blueberries fresh from your garden. These popular plants and many more seem to have nothing in common, but actually, they share an important characteristic – they’re all acid-loving.

Take a look at this short list of just a few to see how many you know and love (and are in your garden):

Understanding Plant Nutrition

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Have you ever wondered what those numbers on the fertilizer package means and what other elements are needed for healthy plant growth?

If the package lists the fertilizer as 5-10-5 (N-P-K), the first number is Nitrogen, the second is phosphorous and the third is potassium. These are known as the primary nutrients.

Nineteen elements are considered essential for plant growth. Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are primarily supplied by air and water. Plant roots absorb the remaining 16 elements from the surrounding soil. These elements are divided into three groups based on their relative abundance in plants: Primary Nutrients (or Major Nutrients), Secondary Nutrients (or Minor Nutrients), and Trace Nutrients (or Micronutrients). Although the Major Nutrients are needed in the greatest quantities, a deficiency of any one nutrient can prevent plant growth, or reduce it to unsatisfactory levels. Even though some soils may already contain these nutrients, they may not be in a form available for plant growth. The best way to ensure that all of the nutrients are available in the soil is through regular applications of plant foods.

Thinking about Spring

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The scents of an outdoor garden can be evoked indoors by cultivating fragrant house plants. Although the list of such foliage is short, it contains many varieties that will freshen up your home's bouquet.

General Guidelines for House Plants

Assess your indoor atmosphere to determine what types of house plants will flourish. You may need to create artificial environments using grow lights and indoor greenhouses to help your plants achieve their maximum potential. Consider the following basic house plant needs when selecting fragrant indoor plants:

Water: Determine each plant's watering requirements and do not exceed them. Over-watering can kill your plant. Water that runs through the container and is left to sit in a catch pan will only contribute to root rot. A moisture meter takes the guesswork out of watering.

Light: Homes have only so many south-facing windows, so the use of grow lamps may be necessary to supplement natural light. Extensive grow-light systems can cost hundreds of dollars, but you can build your own modest system by using a gooseneck floor lamp, a sixty-watt grow light bulb, and a timer.

Deer Problems

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One of the most frequently asked questions we get is “will the deer eat these plants?” and “how do I protect my plants from deer?” While deer may appear to be harmless, they can be quite a nuisance in the garden. These super grazers leap over all but the tallest fences to devour the stems, leaves, and buds of many types of plants, including arborvitae, fir, alfalfa, and roses. They also eat fruits and vegetables.

How to Identify Deer in your Garden

If you notice jagged edges on your plant leaves and cloven hoof prints in your garden, then you probably have a deer problem. Be on the look out for their bean-shaped droppings as well.

A Vital Population

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Honeybees pollinate more than 90 percent of flowering crops in North America including squash, melons, apples, nuts, asparagus, broccoli, cucumbers and more. In fact, they’re responsible for about a third of all food and drink we consume. But worker bees are dying off in record numbers, leaving us with the possibility of a food crisis.

Part of the problem could be the honeybee’s genome, which has half as many toxin and disease fighting genes as a fruit fly, according to research from the University of Illinois. But a new report from the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Agriculture shows a host of causes for the rapid decline in our bee population.