The Bay Gardener by Dr. Francis Gouin

Procrastination will lead to failure

Garden centers are showing bulbs of tulips, narcissus, daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths and leucojum, as well as corms of crocuses. Home mailboxes have been filled with the fall catalogs of bulb companies.     You may not be in the mood for planting bulbs, but now is the time. The earlier you plant in the fall, the bigger the flowers will be come spring. This is especially true for tulips. The bigger the bulb, the bigger the flower. What’s more, tulips planted in early fall in well-prepared soil will flower for several years.

Plus you can share your hostas and lilies with friends

Late summer and early fall is a great time to divide and share your hosta and day lily plants with friends and neighbors while reducing over-crowding in the garden.     One of the big advantages of growing hosta and day lilies is that once they are established, they require little attention. Hostas perform at their best in light shade, but they will tolerate full sun, resulting in more flowers, while day lilies are at their best in full sun.

Act now or they’ll devour your narrow-leafed evergreens

Keep your eyes open and you’ll notice large sections of brown foliage in arborvitae, junipers, Leland cypress and pines. Look closely and you’ll see thousands of bagworms dangling from the branches.

They’re building strength for a fall assault

Bay Weekly readers are asking me where the stinkbugs are.     Stinkbugs may not have plagued you this summer, but I can assure you that they are building their population.     After my fall, I have not been able to spray my few remaining peach trees or my vegetable garden. Surveying the peach trees, I could not find one peach that had not been infested with stinkbug stings. Every remaining peach was cat-faced from stings, with several stinkbugs actively feeding on them.

Acid-loving plants need iron but rusting metal won’t help

A Bay Weekly reader told me he throws a handful of nails in the bottom of each planting hole whenever he plants trees or shrubs. The tradition has been handed down from grandpa to grandson. The purpose, he says, is “to provide an adequate supply of iron to the roots, of course.”     He could not tell me if nail size, such as ten-penny, finish nails or shoe tacks, made any difference. He had no preference for rusty nails or new nails.

How to grow a garden to suit many tastes

Quite a few plants love acid soils. Andromeda, azaleas, blueberries, leucothoe, mountain laurel and rhododendrons, bald and pond cypress, deciduous hollies, false heather, heather, Japanese hollies, mountain silverbell, oaks, partridge berry and sour gum love acid soils.     Such plants demand soil with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5.

Time to transplant azaleas and other acid-loving plants

Mid-August to early October is the time to transplant azaleas, rhododendrons, mountain laurel, andromeda, leucothoe and blueberries.     What do blueberries have to do with azaleas and these other landscaping plants?     By Aug­ust, all have stopped producing top growth and are now making root growth. Transplanting them at this time of year enables the plants to become well established before the ground freezes.

Garden in the evening cool

Gardening in the heat of the day is unhealthy. It’s one of those stresses those of us with gray or white hair in particular are told repeatedly to avoid during these hot muggy days when orange alert air pollution levels are anticipated.     But did you know that gardening in the heat of the day also promotes the germination of weed seeds and the growth of weeds?

You need bees to get fruit, nuts and berries

At a recent garden club lecture, a member complained that she was not seeing apples on any of the five trees she planted three years ago. The trees were growing in full sun and had a full compliment of blooms this past spring. All were of the Golden Delicious variety.     Were any flowering crab apple trees in her area, I asked.     She was not aware of any.     That’s why her trees have no fruit.

But don’t expect an easy job

Rhododendrons are one of the most difficult ornamental plants to grow in landscapes. This year the rhododendrons did exceptionally well due to the cool, moist spring. Many growers noted that the ornamental plants bloomed heavier than normal and that their flowers lasted longer.     In their native habitat, rhododendrons grow in regions where the climate is cool, in soils that are well-drained but with ample moisture.