Saturday, July 30, 2011

Your Weedy Lawn Is A Good Thing



The next time your neighbor with the emerald green lawn casts a look down their nose at your less than perfect lawn, don’t feel bad. The fact of the matter is that your weedy lawn is doing more for your garden, the environment and your wallet that the supposedly “perfect” lawn your neighbor maintains.
One of the major benefits of having a weedy lawn is that many weeds in your lawn attract butterflies and caterpillars. Common lawn weeds, such as plantain, dandelion and clover are sources of food for the Buckeye butterfly, Baltimore butterfly, Eastern tailed blue butterfly and a great many others. Allowing some of these common weeds to grow in your garden, encourages butterflies to lay their eggs in your yard which will result in more butterflies in your garden later on.
Weeds also help to attract other beneficial bugs to your garden as well. Many good bugs, like predatory wasps, preying mantis, ladybugs and bees find food and shelter in the weeds in our yards. These “good” bugs will help to keep the “bad” bug population down in your garden as well as providing pollination to your plants. The more weeds you have in you’re the less money and time you will have to spend on battling back the bugs that can hurt your plants.
Many weeds are also blessed with a natural insect repellant. Letting weeds in your lawn grow near your more weed free flower beds can help drive out even more “bad” bugs from your plants.
Weeds can also help keep down erosion of top soil on your property. If you live in an area that is prone to drought or live in an area that is unfortunate enough to experience a drought, the weeds in your lawn may very well be the only plants in your lawn that survive. Long after your grass has died from the heat and lack of water, those weeds will still be there, holding down the precious topsoil that will be vital when the rain returns and you can replant the grass.
Beyond that, many of the chemicals we use to keep our lawns “healthy” and green are actually carcinogenic and very bad for the environment. Run-off from chemically treated lawns finds its way into sewer systems and then into water ways, causing pollution and killing many aquatic animals. Even before these chemicals make it to the water, they may cause harm to your local wildlife. While you may be able to keep your kids and pets off a chemically treated lawn, a wild animal or a neighbor’s pet can not read the sign that says your lawn has been chemically treated.
So instead of cringing at the glares you get from your neighbors with over treated lawns when your lawn becomes polka-dotted with dandelions, smile politely and inform them that you are growing an environmentally-friendly, baby butterfly nursery.


HOW TO TAKE CARE OF SUMMER PLANTS IN WINTER



It's important to learn how to take care of summer plants in the winter, because most so-called summer plants cannot withstand freezing winter temperatures. Whether your summer plant is a tropical plant or a tender herb you'd like to keep alive throughout the winter months, learn the steps to taking care of plants through the wintertime.
How to Take Care of Summer Plants in the Winter

When people talk about summer plants, what do they mean? Identify your plant below and learn the specifics of how to take care of summer plants in the winter.
Annual Flowers

Annual summer flowers such as impatiens and begonias hail from warm, tropical climates. Most cannot withstand temperatures consistently dipping below 50 or 60 degrees. You'll see frost damage on the flowers first, followed by dying leaves.

You can try to maintain them throughout the winter months by placing a cold frame around the garden bed. A cold frame consists of side panels and an angled clear plastic or glass top that lets light inside the frame. The interior becomes a warm micro climate you can adjust to let in air or moisture as needed.

Many annual summer flowers aren't worth trying to winter over for next season. Most gardeners simply allow annuals to die, collecting seeds if possible for next year. You can also dig them up, place them in flower pots, and bring them indoors. Be sure to keep them on a bright southern or eastern-facing window and use supplemental artificial plant lights if necessary to keep them healthy. Even with the best care, many summer flowering annuals just don't like to be indoors, but you can easily replace them next year.
The perennial family of flowers is huge, with thousands of different plants. Nature intends perennials to return year after year, growing from the same root stock as the previous year. To ensure the roots remain healthy through the cold winter months, apply a thick layer of natural mulch such as wood chips or bark around the plant. Cut back any dead branches or flowers and discard them. Dead leaves, branches and flowers can harbor insects or microbes that can attack the plant next spring.
Perennial Flowers
Tree Roses

Tree roses are summer plants that need special care. Wrap the trunks in special paper, available at garden centers, and use burlap to wrap the crown portion. Dormant plants kept in large pots or tubs can be moved into garages or other shelters if necessary.
Tropical Plants and Houseplants

Both tropical plants and houseplants must be moved indoors in the fall before the cold weather strikes your area. Neither can spend the winter outdoors. Be sure to spray the plant with a stream of water before moving it indoors to remove any insects, and inspect the pot carefully for insect larvae and other hitchhikers before moving the plant inside. The warmth indoors may encourage your unwanted guests to hatch and settle into your home for the winter, too.
Other Winter Plant Care Tips

During the winter months, you do not need to water your outdoor plants. Let nature take care of the watering. When plants are dormant in the winter, their water needs are considerably less than during the active periods of growth and reproduction during the summer months.

Take special care of strawberry plants, whose crowns freeze below 20 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Layer straw mulch on strawberry plants after the first cool weather occurs.

Tender herbs require a cloche or covering over them to protect them from frost. Rosemary benefits from a cloche and can be wintered over in the garden with some covering. Oregano, mint, and similar herbs may go dormant but usually do not require much winter protection. Basil should be treated like an annual plant and either moved indoors or allowed to die naturally; you can easily replace it in the spring.

Nature gave plants the ability to withstand the natural seasonal weather in the plant's original habitat. Any non-native summer plants such as many annual flowers, tender perennials, houseplants and tropical plants require special care, so take steps now to ensure health plants year-round.