Friday May 11, 2012

Here's a gentle reminder: Sunday is Mother's Day! Now you have no excuse.

Need a gift idea? Buy mom a plant. Mothers love plants.

Although my mother passed away a few years ago, my memories of her are especially vivid at this time of year. Two plants that she loved are lilac and lily-of-the-valley. Coincidentally, their bloom and sweet fragrance always peak around Mother's Day. Those are two plants that will always be in my gardens and will forever kindle loving memories of Mom. Such associations are why I think there is no better physical gift to give than a plant. The best gift of all is unconditional love.

A great place to shop for a Mother's Day plant is the 35th annual plant sale at the Berkshire Botanical Garden. The sale is open to the public today, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The plants being sold come not only from the Botanical Garden's own greenhouse, but also from a number of nurseries in the region. As a result, there is an incredible range of plants available for sale.

If you choose not to buy mom a plant, you can show your love by helping with these tasks this weekend:

  • Mow the lawn. Avoid scalping the lawn since such low mowing encourages invasion by weeds. Low mowing reduces the grass plant's ability to make food via photosynthesis and, therefore, reduces its ability to compete with invading weeds. Set mowing height at a minimum of two and one-half inches.
  • Use spot treatments to control dandelions in the lawn, unless they are so prevalent they resemble a yellow carpet. In that case, either learn to love them or apply a broadleaf weed killer when the dandelions have just finished flowering and have advanced to the "puffball" seed stage. If using a weed killer, read the label on the product. Carefully follow directions pertaining to number of applications allowed per year, timing of mowing, weather concerns, and environmental precautions. Frankly, I've learned to love them.
  • Plant tall species of ornamental grasses as a backdrop for a flower garden. The green foliage of the grasses helps accentuate the color of flowers in the border.
  • Pot up calla lily, caladium, cannas and tuberous begonia in attractive patio pots. These summer flowering bulbs are well suited for growing in containers.
  • Make an early planting of sweet corn, but wait another week or two to plant the main crop. Wear a carpenter's nail apron when planting in the vegetable garden. The apron will hold seed packets, markers and pencil.

May has always been my favorite month; it's the month of my birth, the month of Mother's Day, and the month when gardening activity begins in earnest and elsewhere.

However, I'm not alone in my preference for May. Many pesky critters are also enjoying this merry month. In the vegetable garden, there are cutworms, root maggots, and flea beetles. Placing paper collars around transplants can help protect seedlings from cutworms, while placing small tar paper disks around the base of seedlings of cabbage and related crops will often reduce root maggot problems. To protect crops from flea beetles, place row covers over the plants.

In landscapes, tent caterpillars are active. Applications of the biological insecticide, Bt, are effective in reducing the numbers of these insects. European Pine Sawfly larvae are feeding on mugo, Scotch, red, jack, and Swiss mountain pines. For pine sawfly management, simply knock the larvae off the branches into a bucket of soapy water or apply an organic pesticide product containing spinosad.