Summer storm prep tips (corrected version)
Plus money-saving tips for frugal gardening
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It’s been raining on and off here for a little over a week, and that includes one raucous overnight thunderstorm that terrified Miguel but didn’t cause any damage. I appreciate these storms for the garden helpers they were—my snap peas, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini and herbs nearly doubled in size every few days, but that isn’t always the case.
Sometimes, summer thunderstorms—and, of course, tropical storms and hurricanes—can wreak havoc.
After ensuring that people, homes and other structures are safe, gardeners’ thoughts naturally turn to our beds and borders. We’ve poured our blood, sweat, tears and money into them, so protecting our investment – and the joy it brings – matters.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts an “above-normal 2022 Atlantic hurricane season,” and even as tornado season winds down, some threat remains year-round in parts of the country.
So what’s a gardener to do? Read my latest AP gardening column for my storm prep and clean-up tips to keep people, property and plants safe.
🎙️Great money-saving tips for frugal gardening
Inflation and gas prices got you stressed?
📬 Ask Jessica
(An earlier version of today’s Ask Jessica did not include the reader’s question. The corrected version is below.)
DEAR JESSICA: I planted two big magnolia trees in my backyard. One of those is not doing well. It has yellow leaves with no much growth, and flowers on both are rare. Any advice? —Ban Al-Kaisi, Everett, WA
DEAR BAN: Older magnolia leaves do turn yellow before dropping as a normal part of their lifecycle. If new leaves are growing and they’re green and healthy, then there isn’t likely any cause for concern. But since you mention blooming issues, my guess is your soil’s pH isn’t correct for your trees.
Magnolias require acidic soil. If the soil’s pH is out of the tree’s target range, the trees won’t be able to take in any nutrients from the soil or fertilizers.
You can buy a soil test kit at your local nursery or online (or bring a sample to your local cooperative extension office for testing). If the results show a pH reading above 6.0 or below 5.0, then the trees are planted in the wrong place.
You don’t mention how old the trees are, but if they’re young, you might consider moving them to an area that’s better suited for it.
Absent that, there are amendments you can add to your soil to alter its pH. Garden lime will raise the number, while a soil acidifier containing elemental sulfur (such as those made by Jobes and Espoma) will lower it. Follow label dosage and directions carefully.
Incorrect soil pH also could be responsible for diminished blooming.
💡 If you do one thing this week…
Cover strawberry plants with netting or floating row covers, lest the birds get them before you do.
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Grab one today while it’s on your mind because when they’re gone, they’re gone (and I’m not going to publish a wall calendar for 2023). Take a look:
👏 Sunday shoutout
Anthony Neglia sent these photos of “a beautiful bee on a zinnia that I grew. I also have butterfly baskets, and each year breed black swallowtails from the eggs on my parsley and dill plants.”
📰This week in my Associated Press gardening column
I write a weekly gardening column for the AP, so you might have seen my byline in your local paper (or news website) — wherever in the world you happen to be. In case you miss it, I’ll post the most recent here every week.
Preparing a garden for severe storms—and cleaning up after.
Do we have to separate you two? Best, worst companion plants for a healthier, pest-free garden
Common gardening mistakes — and how to avoid them: Much of gardening is learned by trial and error -- and, unfortunately, that’s mostly error. Learn how to get ahead of those blunders for a healthy, productive garden.
Not all shade is the same: Gardening where there's little sun: Gardening in the shade doesn't have to mean limited plant choices and lack of color. The first step is understanding which type of shade you have. Click in for guidance and plant suggestions.
Sunflowers! Homegrown sunflowers are popular, native and, for some, newly meaningful. Learn how to grow them— and how to harvest and roast their seeds.
Plant this, not that: Native alternatives for 8 popular invasive plants.
Go Native! If your idea of the perfect garden includes abundant plants that do well with little human intervention, while attracting and supporting all manner of pollinators, plant natives. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Annuals to plant for old-time nostalgia: Longing for grandma’s flowers? Here are 8 vintage garden favorites.
Filling raised beds? Save money—and grow better—with Hugelkultur: Hugelkultur is a different, more natural (and cheaper) approach to raised beds or mounds that doesn’t require so many bags of top soil or compost. Instead, you fill the space with organic matter that gradually decomposes, feeding the soil and plants. Here’s how.
Want more? You can read all my AP gardening columns here.
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