What's Up 49: Potted flowers, girdling root, deadheading, fertilizing

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In this issue:

Pick-me-ups for pooped out potted plants
      Alternative liners for wire baskets
Big mistakes: Oops, that wasn't water!
Getting to the root of tree trouble
What's a girdling root?
More advice from our mentors
In our garden:
     Deadheading, clipping, or not!
      Coaxing trees' roots, stepping out on tour

45 mph: Speedier than the average crab
Grins for serviceberry, grow-an for locust

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Potted flowers flag for lack of fuss and fertilizer


Above: Perhaps it's hard to believe, but these plants are having a tough time of it up in the air and needy for nutrients in the soilless mix so essential for good drainage in a pot. Without careful attention in three areas, a container garden may be a bust rather than a beauty. One focus should be on water, including changing the frequency of watering as the plants become larger. Equally important is regular fertilization with a liquid that contains micronutrients. Third, we deadhead and clip to keep new growth coming. 

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Alternative liners for wire baskets


Above: We wrote recently about the misunderstanding that caused people to think landscape fabric would be useful as long term "weed control" and how it does far more harm than good in the landscape. In that issue of the newsletter we also proposed a tongue-in-cheek list of alternative uses for this black polyester cloth.

Reader Randy Zeilinger adds to that list: "Line hanging baskets with landscape fabric to keep (soil in the wire form or place it in a pot's bottom) to keep soil from running out of the drain hole when watering. "

"However, instead of buying this awful product, you can substitute newspapers (Janet: Or brown bags - above!) and accomplish the same thing."


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Check trees for girdling roots


Above: The sugar maple tree above, shows a flare on its left face but a flattened
base that indicates a girdling root on the right.

Below: Sugar maple with girdling roots exposed.



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Above: In the photo on the left I've begun to clear soil from around the trunk to locate the root or roots that are killing the maple above. On the left, I've cleared further and dabbed paint on some offending roots to help you see them. Girdling roots may be much larger and indeed after removing those shown here I found a much larger root that was the primary problem.

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To deadhead with confidence, learn to recognize spent flowers and to distinguish between flower buds and seed pods. In a daisy (below), the flowers are tiny yellow buds arranged in concentric circles on the central disk. The outermost circle ripens first (it's open on the lefthand flower above), showing powdery yellow pollen (center flower) and then brown, aging tissue. When the inner circles are showing pollen (right hand flower), it's high time to clip that daisy stem even though the white petals we think of as the flower are still intact.


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Above: Don't waffle when you cut back that daisy. Clip back to just above a large leaf (arrow). The section of stem indicated by the arrow is enlarged, right.
A stem's highest node (a node is the leaf-stem junction) is the one most likely to produce a new flowering stalk. If the leaf at that node is large, as on this stalk, the new bloom it produces will receive more food, have a thicker stem and more robust flower.
In that lower node on this daisy stem a new flowering stalk is already forming. If the seeds in the current flower begin to ripen, that bud may be aborted.


Above: From A to E, flower buds (A), buds plus spent flowers (B), flower plus developing seeds (C and D), and seed-only (E) on daylily stems. If in doubt whether it's a bud or a pod, clip one open. Flower buds are packed with petals, visible even before they develop color. Pods contain seeds!


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