Misc Plant Wisdom


Yellowing Plants? When you look at your garden plants do you wonder why some of them are turning yellow? Yellowing can be caused by over-watering, especially in sandy soils, resulting in a loss of nutrients. How do we tell what nutrient deficiencies are causing the discoloration?

Here is the secret:

  • If the veins of the leaf are green but the leaf itself is turning yellow–add iron.
  • If the whole leaf is turning yellow (especially the older leaves) — add nitrogen.


Insect Intrusions? Check for insects by looking for obvious chew marks:

  • Grainy looking leaves -Twisted leaves -Sap dripping from bark -Powdery deposits -Sticky substance on leaves

How to find insects on your plants.

Here's the secret to finding the most common insects: Take a light colored piece of paper and hold it under a branch-tap it briskly with a pencil-wait a moment and look at the paper for insects the size of a grain of sand.

  • If they move they are alive. If they don't it is just dirt or it could be eggs.
  • Small reddish specks that move are Red Spider Mites.
  • Cigar shaped specks that have antenna are Thrips.

If you are not sure what you have then bring it into the nursery and we will be glad to help with the ID. Most insects (not all) that you find in the garden will be killed by horticultural soap, oils or Neem products (and these are very user friendly). Please be sure to read the directions.


Got a tree that just won't grow? You water it, you fertilize it, it looks O.K. but it just won't grow. Suspect WEED-N-FEED FERTILIZERS (see FERTILIZER at right) and check one other thing: Get down on your hands and knees and look at the base of the tree for scarring from the weed eater cutting the grass around the tree.

If this is heavily scarred remove the tree, the damage is permanent. You have damaged the vascular system that is just under the bark and the tree has lost its ability to receive nutrients and water properly. It's toast!

GRAVEL PREP: What is the trick to removing unwanted grass in preparation for adding gravel? 

DON’T REMOVE IT — that’s right, just cut off the water supply, remove the grass along the sidewalks to make room for the gravel (go back about 1 foot from the concrete) put down the weed barrier and haul in the gravel. You saved yourself at least 75% of the work and you didn’t add to the land fill.

Another bonus is your decomposing grass adds nutrients to the existing ground. You can cap your sprinkler heads or you can convert them to drippers to water the plants you will be adding into the gravel areas. If you have Bermuda grass, spray it with a glyphosate (like Round-Up) first.

What about switching to a different color gravel? You guessed it- remove old gravel around the edges to lower that area and give room for the new stuff. Put on the weed barrier. Add the new colored gravel. You’ll never know that the old color is underneath.


Confused about fertilizers? Look at it this way- there arethree numbers on the fertilizer bag:

  • The first number is the most important partially because it is the most leachable from the soil- it’s Nitrogen; Nitrogen makes for green color and growth.
  • -The second number is Phosphorus; Phosphorus promotes bloom.
  • The third number Potassium; Potassium helps in the root and stem development. Other than that there are an additional 13 elements needed for a healthy plant. Guess what? A good balanced fertilizer has many if not all of them.

So what about rose food, lawn food, tree fertilizer? 

They are all the same with slight variations in the formula.

  • Rose food will have more Phosphorus to promote bloom.
  • Lawn food does not need as much Phosphorus because lawn grasses don’t really bloom so lawn foods have Nitrogen to make your grass green. That means that you can use your old bag of lawn food to fertilize your trees and shrubs.

Specialty fertilizers are great but if you have old fertilizers laying around use them first-unless you have a special deficiency you need to address or if you are fertilizing indoor plants.

Indoor plants need water soluble fertilizer so the salts don’t build up in the soils.
Don’t use WEED-N-FEED FERTILIZERS. It’s a long story that I will address later but they can do severe damage to trees and shrubs even if they are quite a ways from the grass they are used on!