All About Gardening and Gardening Q & A by Pernell Gerver

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"Going Green in the Lawn & Garden"

Over the years interest has been increasing in going green in the lawn and garden. More and more people are looking for ways to take a safe and natural approach to caring for their lawns as well as growing not only edibles like vegetables and fruits, but also ornamentals in the home landscape such as flowers, trees, and shrubs.

No matter what plant is being grown - from apples to zinnias - there are basic principles of organic gardening that apply to any plant in the garden or home landscape. Click on a product name below to read more about it and order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Twenty four years ago when I won the "Gardener of the Year" award in a nationwide contest held by "Organic Gardening" magazine I was quoted in the cover story as saying "The soil is the key to it all," and I'm still a firm believer in that principle today. Healthy soil produces healthy plants that are less prone to problems. For most plants it's a good idea to improve the soil both before planting time and to implement a regular soil-improvement program for the long term. Whether the soil is mainly sand or clay, the solution is organic matter worked into the soil. That organic matter can be anything from leaves to peat moss to cow manure to compost - whatever organic material you can get your hands on.

After good soil prep, the next important fundamental is to make and use compost on a regular basis. For those just beginning a garden I recommend starting a compost pile first. Compost is the greatest soil improvement material on earth, plus it's a good way to recycle garden debris and autumn's leaves. To make compost quickly, use Compost Bioactivator. Microbes do all the work in a compost pile, breaking down the organic matter into rich, black compost. Compost Bioactivator provides billions of these helpful microbes which helps speed up the composting process. This results in compost in 60 to 90 days.

Weeds are the bane of many lawns and controlling and eliminating them is going green thanks to a couple of organic products. At last there is an organic, fast-acting weed killer called Herbicidal Soap Spray. It eliminates unwanted vegetation fast and safely. It kills weeds, algae, and moss in the lawn and garden and it kills within hours! This amazing product is an herbicidal soap made from ammoniated soap of fatty acids. This is a all-natural, non-selective herbicide that kills everything it comes in contact with, so avoid spraying desirable plants. It does not stain bricks, concrete, asphalt, or pavement. Weeds controlled include dandelion, wild violets, nutsedge, clover, ground ivy, chickweed, corn spurry, groundsel, lamb's quarters, mouse-eared chickweed, mustards, plantain, redroot pigweed, round-leaved mallow, sheep sorrel, shepherd's purse, stinkweed, thistle, and all other weeds. Spot spray weeds in the lawn then apply my Organic Lawn Weed and Feed to prevent future weeds without reseeding. Use Herbicidal Soap Spray on lawns, patios, driveways, sidewalks, roofs, and in planting beds prior to planting flowers and vegetables.

For weed prevention in the lawn my Organic Lawn Weed and Feed is a two-in-one product that's all you need. It's an easy, one-step lawn care program that's 100% organic. It works very well on all types of lawns and grasses. The organic lawn food it contains fertilizes the lawn providing fast green up, but won't burn. The organic weed preventer it contains is a safe, natural lawn pre-emergent, preventing weed seeds from sprouting. Applied to established lawn, bare ground, or on top of mulch, it inhibits the growth of the weed seed's feeder roots, causing the weed seedling to die before you even see the weed. It's effective against all lawn and garden weeds including dandelions, smooth crabgrass, nutsedge, wild violets, ground ivy, clover, quackgrass, barnyardgrass, curly dock, green foxtail, giant foxtail, creeping bentgrass, shattercane, wooly cupgrass, purslane, annual bluegrass, lamb's-quarters, black nightshade, orchardgrass, black medic, redroot pigweed, velvetleaf, catchweed bedstraw, buckhorn, and all other common lawn and garden weeds. In fact, in addition to being my yearly weed and feed for the lawn, I also use it in flower beds, vegetable gardens, and around trees and shrubs. With it you no longer need to weed any more or mulch any more. Spread it over the entire lawn, including the bare spots in the lawn, to allow the grass to fill in without having to reseed - with it overseeding is unnecessary. It can be applied with all types of lawn spreaders. It's safe for people, pets, wildlife, and the environment. The lawn can be walked on immediately following treatment. Use it on the entire lawn and garden each spring or fall to prevent both annual and perennial weeds.

For just about every pest in the lawn and garden there is a natural, biological pest management technique that works. One of the most exciting biologicals to come on the market in recent years is a product called Neem Oil. It is made from the seeds of the neem tree of India. In early trials I've found Neem Oil to be an effective, all-purpose combination pesticide (to control insects), miticide (to control spider mites), and fungicide (to control diseases). It has worked well on a broad range of both pests and diseases. As a pesticide, Neem Oil works in three ways: Firstly, it is a contact killer, immediately killing the pest. Secondly, it acts as an anti-feedant, meaning the insect does not eat once being sprayed. Thirdly, it functions as an insect growth regulator which means that the young do not develop into mature adults. With conventional pesticides there are concerns of the insects developing a resistance to the control, but that is not the case with neem oil. Hard-to-control pests such as Japanese beetles and whiteflies are notorious for this ability, but with Neem Oil I haven't seen any resistance in my trials.

In addition to being an effective, broad-range biological pesticide, Neem Oil also shows very good prospects as a natural fungicide. Black spot and powdery mildew are the most common diseases of roses. Perennials such as tall garden phlox often are afflicted with powdery mildew that coats the plants with an unattractive white film. Conventional fungicides when sprayed on the plants only protect new, unaffected foliage from getting infected, but can do nothing to remove the existing powdery mildew. In my trials, Neem Oil actually washed away powdery mildew.

One of the best biological controls of grubs in the lawn and garden is Milky Spore Powder Grub Control. A naturally-occurring bacteria that infects only grubs, it's used on lawns and in the garden to control grubs and beetles. It's effective on over 40 different white grubs including Japanese beetle grubs. It also eliminates the food source (grubs) of moles, skunks, and birds and the animals go somewhere else to feed. Once applied, the bacteria quickly spreads throughout the colony of grubs. The grubs don't get resistant to Milky Spore Powder Grub Control. It's safe for humans, animals, beneficials and the environment and just one application lasts 15 to 20 years or more!

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"How to Keep Crown of Thorns Healthy"

Q. A friend gave me two stems of her crown of thorns, however, all the leaves but one fell off. She had cut them from her plant. Today it looks like it is coming back. It is turning green and it looks like some leaves will be popping through. My question is how often should this plant be watered and is there anything else I should know about this plant to keep it healthy?

A. For those who are not familiar with this indoor plant, crown of thorns is a succulent with thin, upright stems lined with many thorns. Clusters of bright-green, narrow leaves grow at the tips of each stem. Each leaf lasts for a few months then drops off. New leaves are only produced at the tip of each stem, so once a leaf drops off, the spiny stem is bare.

Small clusters of tiny flowers appear on the new growth of each stem. Flower color can be red, yellow, pink, or white. The main blooming season of crown of thorns is early spring through late summer, but may be continuous if the plant gets enough light.

Crown of thorns will take as much light as you can give it. Bright, direct sunlight prolongs its blooming period.

This plant tolerates the warm, dry air found in homes very well. At temperatures below 55 degrees, its leaves will drop prematurely.

Water when the top inch of soil has dried out between waterings. After its main blooming season, cut back on watering, but don't let the roots dry out completely. If that happens it will drop its leaves.

If the plant is in good light, you can fertilize all year long to keep it in bloom all the time.

Click here to read more about crown of thorns and order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store

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