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I started to write todays blog discussing the pros and cons of organic food versus inorganic food.  I soon found that subject to be entirely to complicated for this column.  I determined that just because something is labeled organic does not necessarily make it so and because it is inorganic does not make it harmful.

For example, salt in its pure state cannot be labeled organic.  There are some elements in it that don’t meet the criteria for organic.  If you bottled the air we are breathing, it would not meet organic criteria.  I went to our pantry and looked at cooking sprays, vegetable oils, many kinds of spices and so on without finding anything organic.

To be fair, I think most of you know that I am not an advocate of either organics or non gmo products.  I have been involved in the manufacture of organic fertilizers, sold both regular fertilizer and organics and both gmo and non gmo seed.  The more I learn about organics and gmo products the less faith I have in them.

With that said I try to stay out of arguments about the merits of either.  If you believe and are willing to pay the price go for it.  I would say that you would be well advised to spend an hour or so googling organic vs inorganic and reading both sides of the story.  As with all things there are two sides to the story.

Just to let you know plain old 10-10-10 fertilizer, the nitrogen is basically extracted from the air you are breathing, the potassium and potash are mined from the ground.  Just saying.

After finding how complicated the above subject was I decided to write on good bugs versus bad bugs.  Woe is me that was just as complicated as the above subject if not more so.  I found out that some bad bugs may at times be good bugs.  I also know that it is extremely hard to control bad bugs without harming good bugs.

Only about 5 per cent of bugs, worms and insects are harmful.  Now the other 95 per cent are not all good.  Some are just around.  They really neither harmful or particularly beneficial.

A good example is the stink bug which we have seen and heard a lot about over the last few years.  They don’t eat any plant material to my knowledge.  They don’t bite or sting.  They are really not nasty at least they don’t leave a mess behind.  They do smell bad.  Yet none of us want them in our house or on our bodies.

Caterpillars can do a lot of damage in a short period of time.  A horned worm can eat much of a tomato plant in a day.  Yet they soon turn into beautiful butterflies.  We want to kill them when they are on our tomato plants, we want to protect them and even feed them when they are butterflies.

Some of the beneficial insects will help to control the bad bugs.  Trying to control the bad guys gets to be a tough decision and I am not going to try to offer a solution here.

I believe that pesticides, (chemicals) have their place.  Read the label, use according to the label they work and do little or no harm.  Don’t take the recommendation of a friend or neighbor or me for that matter, find out for yourself.

Other people would not go near their garden or food with a pesticide.  That’s fine.  You have to figure out for yourself how to manage the problems in your garden and landscape.

So today I have written a lot and said very little.  Some of these things I will address more specifically during the season.  Others may not get answered.

As always if you have a question or topic you would like for me to discuss let me know.  I will see what I can do.

Hydrangeas: Plant-Grow-Prune February 1st, 2019



This blog may be a little ahead of the season, but I recently got in a discussion with some ladies concerning their hydrangeas.  Most of it concerned their hydrangeas not blooming.  There are a lot of reasons why the plants did not bloom at all or only bloomed lightly.  I will get into this problem a little later.

Hydrangeas can be beautiful plants and may be used in many different ways.  They do well in containers, make excellent border plants and can be used as a single planting for a focus point.  Nothing is prettier than a hydrangea in full bloom.

Much of the research I saw talked about how easy they are to grow and how well they perform. Maybe that I am the wrong one to write this article because I have never had good luck with them.  I am going to try a couple this summer and see if they do better for me this time around.

Hydrangeas tend to do best planted in rich porous, somewhat moist soil.  Most prefer full morning sun with partial afternoon shade.  Big leaf hydrangeas tend to do well even in all day light shade.

There are several different kinds of hydrangeas.  I am not going to get into all the botanical names here.  I think for the purpose of this article all we need to look at is the fact that some types bloom on old wood and some bloom on new wood.  If your plant is very old it likely blooms on old wood, but not necessarily.

Pruning hydrangeas can be confusing.  The most common varieties are the bigleaf hydrangeas and oakleaf varieties.  These bloom on the previous stems or old wood.  Flower buds form in late summer and bloom the following spring.  They should not be pruned after August 1.

If you have a plant that’s old, damaged or has been neglected prune it all the way to the base.  You will miss next seasons bloom but that’s a start to rejuvenate the plant for future enjoyment.

Plants that bloom on new wood should be pruned hard on a yearly basis.  Make sure you prune before the new flower buds are formed.

Hydrangeas benefit from fertilization once or twice in the spring.  Being heavy bloomers mean they need plenty of food.  Remember, blooming to a plant is akin to childbirth to a woman.

Established plants should not need to be watered.  The roots are deep enough and spread out enough that they can obtain enough water out of the soil.

A large hydrangea in full bloom can hold a tremendous amount of water in a heavy rain.  It may hold several gallons of water.  This causes the plants to bend and sometimes they don’t come back during that season.

Some blue or pink hydrangeas can be made to change color.  The variety nikko blue being a good example.  If its blue and you want to change it to pink simply apply lime around the roots and it will soon change to pink.  If its pink you can make it turn blue by adding an acid forming product to the soil.  Not all pinks or blues will change colors but there are several that will.  That information should be on the plant tag.

The most common reasons for hydrangeas not blooming are to much sun or to much shade, incorrect pruning or plain old neglect.  The last being the hardest to correct.  Also, remember that plants have a life span just as you and I do.  A 20 to 30 year old hydrangea, that’s been neglected is going to be very difficult to restore to full glory.

I hope this helps a little.  A full discussion on hydrangeas would take a lot more time and space than I have here.

If you have questions on other subjects I would love to hear from you.


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Plant of the Week - Liberty Holly

Liberty Holly 

Liberty Holly

Dense, evergreen shrub with dark lustrous green, deeply serrated leaves that are set along dark stems. In the fall, clusters of bright red berries decorate the foliage. Use in mass plantings or as a hedge to add interest to the landscape.

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