Container Plant Care in May

English: Rows of potted plants in a plant nursery
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Water and fertilize regularly to keep up with the needs of actively growing plants. Allow citrus to dry out somewhat between each watering, but keep figs and bamboo evenly moist. If a plant regularly wilts in the afternoon but the container always seems to have enough moisture in it move the container so it is protected from the late afternoon sun. Remember plants may also wilt if the soil is kept constantly saturated and the roots are starting to rot, in which case allow the soil to dry out before watering again. It can be misleading to judge the soil surface for water content in the container. Instead, lift the container (it will be heavier when the soil is saturated); or stick your finger deep into the soil, if it feels cool there is probably enough water, if it feels closer to air temperature then it probably needs water.

Keep a vigilant eye out for insect pests starting to emerge from over wintering eggs, or aphids flying in and giving birth to copious numbers of live young. Three applications of insecticidal soap spray, applied at 7 day intervals, will quickly knock down these young insects before they have time to mature and lay more eggs.

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Late Spring Mason Bee Care

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English: kind of mason bee, perhaps Osmia corn...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is important to control mites in your mason bees to keep them healthy. One method is to clean them after the bees have matured in the fall (see the October Growing Tips). Another method is to manage the temperatures they are maintained at during the summer as they mature, particularly in the Pacific Northwest and other mild wet spring areas across the country. See the article ‘Mite Control for Mason Bees‘ for easy, specific instructions to keep the mites under control.

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Caterpillar Control

Plum curculio and the damage caused
Plum curculio and the damage caused (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Spinosad (#T177), a quick acting broad spectrum natural insecticide spray derived from the metabolites of a common soil bacterium, and BioNeem (#T172), a natural insecticide derived from the Neem tree, are both effective against codling moth, plum curculio, and currant worm caterpillars before they enter the fruit.

Use Spinosad for heavier infestations, and follow label instructions on timing to avoid damage to beneficial insects, up to 6 sprays per year. Use BioNeem when you prefer a more gentle approach. The first spray is applied 2-4 weeks after bloom, or when you start seeing pin hole scars in the fruit (from the little caterpillars chewing their way into the fruit).

Applying spray in August is helpful in controlling second or third generations of these pests. Start looking for the scars a week or so after catching increased numbers of adults in your monitoring traps, when you start seeing new scars it is time to spray.

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What do I do if my plants have come but I can’t plant right away?

The goal is to keep the bare root plants cool and dormant, and protect the roots from freezing or drying out. You can generally hold the plants up to two weeks in the bags they arrived in, in a cool (35-45º F) location. Check the bags for moisture a couple times, the shredded paper around the roots should be moist and there should be humidity present on the inside of the bag, standing water more than a 1/2 inch or so is undesirable. Alternatively, you can heel (temporarily plant) the dormant plants in a loose pile of soil or compost outdoors (in the shade if temperatures are on the warmer side) until you are ready to plant. Potted dormant plants (evergreen or deciduous) can also be held in a cool location, or buried outdoors, to the rim of the pot, in the compost pile. Potted hardy plants that are showing new growth are no longer dormant, and that new tender growth will probably be damaged by temperatures below 30-32ºF. Keep them in a cool (35-60ºF) but bright location to slow new growth until most danger of frost is past, harden them off, and plant. If late frost threatens, you can provide temporary cover to protect them. If the new growth is damaged by cold temperatures another flush of growth generally occurs within a few weeks. Hold frost tender plants at a moderate temperature, 50-65ºF, with bright light, until all danger of frost has passed before taking them outside for the summer.

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A tip for those of you in cold winter areas who are receiving our potted plants

Frozen BranchesPlanting Out Non-Dormant Hardy Potted Plants: 
Sometimes you might receive cold hardy plants that are no longer dormant but you are still experiencing winter conditions.  Our hardy plant greenhouses are kept to a minimum of about 28-30 degrees F at night, but late winter or early spring day time sun can warm them up well into the 70’s. The resultant new growth is tender and can be damaged by freezing weather, especially below 28º F for more than a couple of hours. Most plants will put on a second flush of new growth after early frost damage, in about 4-6 weeks. To prevent frost damage on non-dormant potted plants you have received here are a couple of options:

Keep the plants where they will receive bright light and remain cool, but above freezing, until danger of frost is past. If you can keep the plants cool (32-50ºF) their growth will be slowed down, so they won’t stretch as much, and the leaves will be a little tougher. Fertilize them lightly with a low to medium nitrogen fertilizer, such as fish fertilizer with kelp to supply micro nutrients, or maybe compost tea. The kelp fertilizer may improve plant tolerance to cold temperatures.

As the day time temperature you are holding your plants at increases so will the rate of growth of your plants. Provide supplemental light if the plants seem to be stretching or getting leggy, fertilize lightly as above.

If you are expecting night time temperatures to be mostly above freezing, with an occasional frost still possible, then you could go ahead and plant outside. Be prepared to put some frost protection over your new plants if necessary. A paper bag, spun-bonded floating row cover (such as Reemay), or a blanket (with support) will provide a couple degrees of protection.

Plants that have been actively growing indoors need to gradually get used to being outside in the direct sun and wind to continue to perform their best. Put them outside in a partially sunny location for a few hours a couple of days, and over the rest of the week gradually increase the time and decrease the shade until they spend the full day outside. Then plant following instructions in the Raintree Nursery Owners Manual.

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