, Newburyport, MA

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May 14, 2014

Tim's Tips: Protect trees from chomping caterpillars

The nice weather got almost everyone in the planting mode. It’s nice to finally be able to get outside.

If you gave or received a flowering hanging basket this past weekend, keep in mind that those plants look so nice now, but if you don’t keep them fertilized, they won’t look good for long. You should be fertilizing those hanging baskets every 10 to 14 days with a fertilizer that will promote the formation of new flower buds. A blossom booster fertilizer will promote new buds and help keep new leaf growth coming along.

As the leaves emerge on the trees, the winter moth caterpillar will begin to ravage the leaves of your trees. These caterpillars will feed for maybe six weeks, and in that time, they can do major damage to your trees. Right now, the caterpillars will be really small, but their appetite will cause a lot of holes on your trees.

You can spray the trees with a biological insecticide called Bt. This insecticide attacks only caterpillars. An application of Bt now and again in about 10 to 14 days will result in a huge decrease in the number of caterpillars attacking your trees.

Now that the forsythia bushes are beginning to lose their flowers, you should plan on cutting them back soon. All of your spring-flowering shrubs can be pruned back after they are done flowering. If you wait until late summer or fall to prune them back, you will be pruning out the flower buds that will give you your flowers in 2015. Once the spring-flowering shrubs are done flowering, you should also give them an application of fertilizer. This will help promote new growth and help get lots of flower buds forming for next year’s flowers.

Many perennials are shooting up quickly. Now is the time to get those plant supports in place. Peonies, in particular, are growing fast, and soon they will be setting those huge flower buds. It is almost a ritual of early summer that once those flowers open, a rain comes along and the flowers flop to the ground. If you get the plant supports in place and the rains do come along during the flowering time, you won’t be missing that spectacular show that peonies put on each year.

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