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My mother always said idle hands were the devil’s workshop among other things I tried to ignore as a kid. If you are looking for ways to avoid becoming a conduit for Beelzebub, I have several garden honey-do’s that will pay off handsomely.
Crape myrtles that have finished their first round of blooms can usually be coaxed into an encore performance with just a little work.
Use your hand pruners to remove the seedpods that have formed where all those gorgeous flowers were a few weeks ago. If you have vigorous varieties, prune back to stems that are about the size of a No. 2 pencil. This won’t make a lot of sense on less vigorous, smaller selections.
Once you’ve removed the seedpods, prune to improve the basic structure of the plant. Take off the basal sprouts, interior growth shaded by other limbs and any limbs that are damaged or broken. When you are satisfied with the shape and have all of those seedpods removed, add a tree and shrub fertilizer that has slow-release nitrogen.
Pruning and fertilizer application will yield lots of new growth. On that new flush of growth you will have another crop of flowers to brighten those late summer days.
While you’re in the pruning mode, most Knock Out roses need a little summer shape-up. Prune the long shoots that are out of character with the rest of the plant and shoots with faded flowers.
Rosarians always suggest pruning just above a five-leaflet leaf rather than a three-leaflet leaf. I’ve never seen any research to back that up, but it seems to work.
A light application of that same tree and shrub fertilizer you used on the crape myrtles will get your Knock Outs growing again.
This isn’t a great time to do lots of heavy-duty pruning to trees and shrubs. Shaping, taking off a stray limb that’s hanging too low or removing damaged tissue is fine. Save the severe pruning on most things for late winter—late February to mid—March. Just don’t prune your azaleas and other early spring bloomers unless you don’t care about the flower buds.
Check all of your conifers—junipers, arborvitae, Leyland cypress—for bagworms. They seem to be plentiful this year.
Bagworms hang out in tough, needle-covered bags attached to the limbs. They emerge from the bottom of the bags to munch away on the needle-like leaves. Since they don’t have the ability to move around much, you’ll see large areas of plants that are completely stripped of foliage. Left unchecked, they can weaken these conifers to the point they just give up and die.
Small populations for bagworms can be controlled by removing the bags from the trees and shrubs. Insecticides don’t work as well this time of year because it’s difficult to get the material to them. Two applications of products like acephate (Orthene) or imidacloprid (Merit, Bayer Advanced) usually knocks them out, though.
The best time to control bagworms is in May, so check plants infested this year closely next spring and stop them before they do lots of damage.