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Insect Control
1 qt. Concentrate

  • Insecticide, Miticide and Repellent
  • Concentrated Formula Makes 5 Gallons
  • Kills and Repels Soft-Bodied Insects
  • For Houseplants and Outdoor Gardens
  • OMRI Listed® for Use in Organic Gardening
  • Pet-Friendly Insecticide
  • Bee Safe*
  • Safe for People, Pets & Planet*

*when used as directed 

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Description

Earth's Ally Insect Control helps home gardeners control common garden pests, using an effective blend of rosemary, clove and peppermint oils that leave no harmful residues and can be used up until day of harvest. Use on vegetables, fruits, flowers, ornamentals, trees and shrubs. Treats and controls soft-bodied insects, including adult and nymph spider mites, whiteflies, aphids, thrips, mealy bugs, leaf rollers and scale insects.

How To Video

Natural Formula

  • Active Ingredients: Rosemary Oil, Clove Oil, Peppermint Oil (10.99%)
  • Inert Ingredients: Water, Glycerol Monooleate, Ethyl Lactate, Ascorbyl Palmitate (89.01%)
  • View the labels and SDS sheets here

The botanical oils in Earth's Ally Insect Control overstimulate and disrupt the pest’s nervous system, leading to paralysis. The oils block air from the pest spiracles, preventing them from breathing and causing suffocation on contact. Rosemary oil has strong repellent properties. Any insect not contacted by direct spray will quickly leave the treatment area. When used as a preventative treatment, the rosemary oil works synergistically with the plant to ward off insects.

Directions for Use

For Preventative Care

  • Prior to mixing, shake the concentrate well
  • Mix 3/4 cup (6 fl. oz.) of concentrate with 1 gallon of water
  • Apply a fine mist to the stems and leaves
  • Thoroughly cover the plant until there is runoff
  • Spray outdoor plants early in the morning or evening to avoid the hottest part of the day
  • Do not apply in temperatures over 90°F
  • Spray every 7-10 days to keep plants healthy

For Infestations

  • Prior to mixing, shake the concentrate well
  • Mix 3/4 cup (6 fl. oz.) of concentrate with 1 gallon of water
  • Apply a fine mist to the stems and leaves
  • Thoroughly cover the plant until there is runoff
  • Spray outdoor plants early in the morning or evening to avoid the hottest part of the day
  • Do not apply in temperatures over 90°F
  • Repeat this process every 5 days, as needed

Available Sizes

  • 24 fl. oz. ready-to-use
  • 32 fl. oz. concentrate (makes 5 gallons)

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1 qt. Concentrate”
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By Angelo Randaci, Earth’s Ally Master Gardener and Horticulture Expert

5 Gardening Myths

There are common gardening myths that we easily accept as true.  Even though they seem to make sense, these accepted methods are often backed more by folklore than research and science.  In this article, I will discuss five gardening myths and misconceptions, explain why they are untrue, and give tips to improve your gardening practices.

Myth #1: Putting Stones or Sand in Bottom of the Pot Improves Drainage

Over the years, the myth of putting stones in the bottom of pots was treated as fact.  It is not necessary to put anything in the bottom of pots.  Adding a layer of stones, gravel, rocks or similar materials impedes drainage because of something called a perched water table.  This involves two opposing forces at play in a wetted soil.  Gravity which exerts a downward pull on the water, and capillary action which exerts an upward pull on the water.  The area where these two forces balance out is where the layer of water-saturated soil is formed at the bottom of the pot. This is the area where the water is ‘perched’ and cannot move. This perched water table area will not drain unless water is taken up by plant roots or if the potting mix dries out.  All containers regardless of growing medium will have a perched water table. Adding gravel to the bottom of a pot reduces the volume of the potting medium and pushes the perched water table higher up into the pot.  Water collects or ‘perches’ in the soil just above the gravel. 

The best way to increase drainage in containers is to alter the composition of the entire potting medium with a soil amendment. To improve drainage, add perlite or other organic amendment throughout your potting mix. To test for drainage, fill an empty container with potting mix and apply water.  Water should move through the potting mix and drain quickly.  If water sits on top of the soil and drains slowly, add more perlite or other amendment and test again.

While plastic pots usually have plenty of drainage holes, clay pots often have only one drainage hole in the bottom.  Place one rock or piece of broken clay pot, mesh, or other material over the drainage hole to prevent your potting soil from leaching out of the bottom.  Plastic containers usually have plenty of drainage holes and will not need anything placed in the bottom.

There are instances when adding stones for drainage can be useful. If you have a very large, deep container, adding rocks, gravel, or any large stones to fill the space in the bottom will save you from having to use too much potting soil.  It will also add weight to your container to keep it from blowing over during high winds. 

Earths Ally Tips for Beginners:

  • Check your pots periodically to see how well they drain.  Drainage holes can become clogged and not drain well.  
  • Put your potted plant inside a decorative container to hide the ugly pot to make sure it’s a plant pot with drainage. In this case, you can add gravel to the bottom of the decorative container and place the potted plant inside to catch access water or raise the level of the pot if necessary.
  • A good quality potting mix will have adequate drainage if you water your plants only as needed.  Do not over-water your containers. Let them dry out a bit before adding more water.  When you do water, add water until you see it drain out of the pot.  

Myth #2: Landscape Fabric and Weed Barrier Cloth Will Keep Weeds Out

In theory, Landscape fabric is placed on the ground then covered with mulch, suppressing the weeds.  This is commonly called a “garden weed barrier.”  Theoretically the weeds cannot grow through the cloth and die.  In theory, that should work.  While landscape fabric may work for a while, it won’t over the long term and will cause other problems.  While seeds sprouting under the cloth will die, perennial weeds will eventually grow through or around the fabric.  Spreading-type weeds can grow quite a distance underground to find an opening in the cloth.  In time, landscape fabric will stick up through the top layer of mulch and create an eyesore.  Placing more mulch on top to hide the weed barrier will make the problem worse. As the mulch on top breaks down it becomes a growing media for weeds.

Landscape fabric is supposed to allow rain to penetrate the fabric through tiny holes.  Although some rain will go through the holes, a good bit of water will flow over the top of the cloth.  Plants underneath the fabric may not receive adequate water and remain dry.

Landscape fabric is not good for the health of soil.  It reduces the amount of air and organic matter to reach the surface of the soil.  This can destroy soil life which depends on air and food, causing a reduction in soil nutrients as the soil structure degrades.

Roots of trees, shrubs, and perennials will grow into and through the fabric. When the fabric needs to be replaced, roots will be damaged.

Other reasons include: 

  • The plastic fabric adds to environmental waste.
  • Moving and dividing plants is difficult through the weed barrier.
  • Weeds are difficult to pull out of the fabric.
  • Fabrics made from geotextiles will degrade in as little as one year unless protected from sunlight.

Earths Ally Tips for Beginners:

  • Instead of landscape fabric to smother weeds, cover the area with 4 to 6 inches of mulch. 
  • Use Earth’s Ally Weed & Grass Killer, perfect for mulch beds and planting beds. It kills weds down to the roots.
  • Landscape fabric is useful to place under stone pathways and driveways as it will keep the stones from disappearing in the soil.   

Myth #3: Using Pebble Trays to Increase Humidity for Indoor Plants

Using a tray with pebbles filled with water is said to add humidity for your plants. During summer months the house plants placed outdoors will get all the humidity they need, but during cold winter months, in heated homes, it is a different story.  As humidifiers, pebble trays will not add enough humidity to compensate for the dryness of heated homes.  The large volume of dry household winter air absorbs most of the water that evaporates from pebble trays and dissipates into the air all through the house.  This leaves little if any humid air for the plants.Image

Earths Ally Tips for Beginners:

  • Place a humidifier in the room to increase humidity.
  • Group plants together on pebble trays.  Plants release moisture through their leaves by transpiration creating a higher humidity layer around leaves.  The effect will be limited unless you have a lot of plants together.
  • Make sure your plants are growing in a good quality potting soil. Roots may be damaged by poor quality potting mixes and because of this inhibit the transport of water to leaves and flowers.  The symptoms of drying or yellowing leaves will often appear as a low humidity problem.
  • Use grow lights during the short days and low natural light of winter.  Adequate light helps the plants make food and build healthy roots, foliage and flowers.  This may have a greater impact on plant health than low humidity.
  • Use pebbles on the bottom of saucers rather than in the pots for aesthetic value. Attractive pebbles are decorative features for pots and will keep roots out of standing water.   

Myth #4: Misting Plants Will Increase Humidity

When misting a plant with a spray bottle of water, droplets from the spray sit on the leaves until the water evaporates.  This adds humidity, but only until the water evaporates off the leaves. The water then turns into vapor and is dissipated throughout the room just like the water added to a pebble tray.  Humidity will only be higher while the tiny water droplets are on the plant.  Beware that water sitting on leaves can cause fungal problems.

Earths Ally Tips for Beginners:

  • Use a terrarium or other enclosure to increase humidity. The humidity can be regulated by fully or partially covering the top of the terrarium.  If you cover 30% of the top you will achieve a 50% increase in humidity.  If you cover 90% of the top you will achieve 70% humidity and covering the entire top will give you 100% humidity.  If no top is added, the humidity will be about the same as a pebble tray.  Fungus problems can also arise within the humidity of a terrarium. 
  • To keep disease at bay, preventative treatments of fungicide, like Earth’s Ally Disease Control, are a helpful tool to improve plant health.

Myth #5: You Should Disinfect Your Pruning Tools with Bleach

It is important to disinfect your pruning tools to avoid the spread of disease. If you are working with a diseased plant, your pruning tools (pruning shears, saws, loppers, etc.) should be disinfected between cuts.  If the plant appears to be healthy, you can disinfect after every few cuts.  Bleach is often used as a disinfectant but is not the best option because bleach is corrosive and will damage metal tools.  Bleach is also very phytotoxic and may damage the cells of the plants being pruned. 

Earths Ally Tips for Beginners:

  • Use rubbing alcohol instead of bleach to disinfect your tools. Either dip your tool into a jar of the alcohol or wipe the surface with cloth dipped in the alcohol.  If you have a hand sanitizer that is alcohol based, you can use it as well.
  • Let your blade dry before making your next pruning cut or wipe it dry with a cloth to avoid damage to the next branch to be cut. 
  • Make sure your tool is sharp. A dull blade may contain pitted edges that keep your disinfectant from complete coverage.
  • Never apply any disinfectant directly to the wound created by your pruning cut.  This will kill plant cells and leave the wound more susceptible to fungus.

There are many myths about maintaining an organic garden. Armed with information and the right tools you are on your way to creating a beautiful, non-toxic oasis for your family and pets. We’d love to hear how Earth’s Ally is helping you grow organic plants. Share your experience and stay connected with the #EarthsAlly community on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for access to our latest blog posts, giveaways and exclusive promotions.

quotation mark right Gardening Myths, Misconceptions and Tips
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By Angelo Randaci, Earth’s Ally Master Gardener and Horticulture Expert

Advantages of Trench Composting vs. Conventional Composting

Composting has many benefits. It produces nutrient soil that helps to retain moisture and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.  It encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi which break down organic matter to create humus.  But what is humus, and what is humus made of?  Humus soil is a key ingredient for a flourishing garden. Humus is the dark organic matter that forms in soil when plants break down through the action of anaerobic organisms.  Decomposed humus is made up of nutrients, including minerals, that improve the health of your plants by creating nutrient rich soil. It's easy to make your own humus at home using various types of organic matter with food and garden waste being the most important.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture, between 30 and 40 percent of food is all recyclable but instead is thrown away.  Composting garden waste and kitchen scraps will build your soil while reducing landfill waste.

While composting is a good way to eliminate food and yard waste, many of us don’t have space for a compost pile or bin and there is considerable work involved with creating a compost pile. You must tend your pile to make sure the composition of your ingredients are in the proper proportions to avoid foul odors. You also need to add moisture and turn your compost periodically to allow air to permeate the pile. But there is new, easier method to create rich humus without all the hard work.  It’s called Trench composting. 

What is Trench Composting?

Trench composting, or trenching, is a way to compost food scraps and yard waste without having to go through the steps necessary to conventional composting.  The steps are simple:

  1. Dig a trench, or any shape hole about 12 - 18 inches deep (18 inches is better)
  2. Add 4-6 inches of compostable materials
  3. Simply fill the hole with the soil you dug out of the trench or hole

That’s all there is to it. There are four methods of trench composting that all work well.  Choose the one that works best for your gardening situation.

Method #1: Dig and Drop

This is the easiest method, especially if you need to compost large amounts of material at once. Use this method during the off season. Dig a hole 12 inches deep and wide enough to bury your collected garden and kitchen waste.  Cover it with soil and within a few months you will have enriched your soil.

Method #2: Trench Between Rows, the Side Dress Method

This method is effective during the growing season but can be done off season as well.  It is used to enrich soil around existing plants.  Dig holes or trenches a few inches from the roots of your vegetables, flowers, or shrubs and bury your compostable materials.  You may have to go further out with your trench for shrubs to avoid harming roots or practice this method for newly planted shrubs and trees.

Method #3: Trench Rotation Method

This method also works during the growing season.  Divide your garden into three zones: trench, pathway and growing zones. The trench zone is where you will add compost, the pathway zone is where you will walk, and the growing zone is where you will plant.  Rotate these three zones each year, moving your trench, pathway, and growing zones to different areas of your garden.  You will have completed the cycle after three years, enriching the soil to your whole garden.

Method #4: Post Hole Digger or Spot Trenching Method

Use a post hole digger to dig either a row of holes in your garden area or outside the drip line of trees and shrubs.  Follow the same procedures as the other methods. Dig the holes, put in your compostable materials, and cover.

Some examples of compostable materials are:

  • Kitchen scraps like fruit, vegetables, coffee grounds and tea bags.
  • Garden waste like grass clippings, leaves and weeds.
  • It’s important to note that you should not use grass clippings and weeds that have been treated with harsh chemical pesticides.  Sea Salt alternatives like Earth’s Ally Weed & Grass Killer are not harmful to the soil or future crops.

Top 5 Benefits of Trench Composting:

  1. It is the easiest method. You won’t have to worry about maintaining moisture levels or aerating your compost pile.
  2. The only tool you need is a shovel.
  3. You will not have odors coming from your trenches as long as your compostable materials are buried at least 18” deep and covered.
  4. Trench composting places the organic matter at the root zone where it is most beneficial. Roots will develop a stronger root system because the roots will travel deeper into the soil to reach the nutrition given from the compost.
  5. It is more aesthetically pleasing than a compost pile and can be placed anywhere in the garden because it is invisible.

Earth’s Ally Composting Tips for Beginners:

  • You can layer scraps and garden waste in your trench or hole for faster decomposition. Alternate dry trench composting leaves with wet scraps.
  • Keep meat, bones, fish, fat, and dairy out of your compost.  Avoid animal waste, diseased plant material and weeds with seeds.  Do not add large sticks or branches because they take the longest to decompose, and do not add wood that may be chemically treated. 
  • Do not plant on top of the trench area until the material in your trench has decomposed because the area may sink as decomposition occurs.
  • Trench composting also works for leaves during the fall months. Bury them the same way throughout your garden and landscape beds.  Shredding the leaves beforehand either with a mower or leaf shredder will help the leaves decompose faster.  Mix them with grass clippings or vegetable waste to add nitrogen to hasten decomposition. 
  • Mark your holes to indicate where you have buried your scraps to prevent accidentally digging them up.

We’d love to hear how articles like this one and Earth’s Ally organic gardening products are helping you grow healthy plants. Share your experience and stay connected with the #EarthsAlly community on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for access to our latest blog posts, giveaways and exclusive promotions.

quotation mark right Trench Composting with Kitchen Scraps
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By Angelo Randaci, Earth’s Ally Master Gardener and Horticulture Expert

Summer harvest is around the corner, do not let bugs feast on your blooms and veggies before you do!

Although most insects that inhabit our garden do no harm to our plants, the ones that do can cause a significant amount of damage.  It is during the summer months that garden pests are most active, so be prepared to initiate both protection and control when needed.  

Choosing insect control methods should involve a combination of cultural and mechanical techniques along with minimal risk pest control products that are both safe and effective for pest prevention.  Cultural practices include good sanitation, removing infested plant material, proper watering, fertilizing, and choosing pest resistant plants whenever possible.  Mechanical methods could be as simple as using a spray of water to knock off aphids or hand-picking to remove unwanted caterpillars.  Insect control products that may harm birds, aquatic organisms, pollinators, pets, and people should be avoided.  Instead, use a reliable, organic product suitable for use in all your garden areas. 

Identifying the most annoying bugs that inhabit your plants is crucial in deciding on a control measure or even if one is needed.  Keep a sharp eye out for the insects listed below.  They are the most common pests found both indoors and out.

Identifying Garden Pests

Whiteflies – Whitefly infestations are prevalent during hot dry summers and on plants suffering from stress, especially water stress. Both adult and immature whiteflies feed on plants by sucking the sap from the foliage.  Damage occurs as yellowing of leaves that eventually shrivel and drop prematurely. They can transmit viruses from diseased to healthy plants through their feeding.

Aphids – Aphid populations rise along with warm weather.  They live on plants, especially on new plant growth and buds.  Damage occurs as misshapen, curling, stunted, or yellowing leaves. Their numbers multiply rapidly and they will infest both indoor and outdoor plants.

Scales – Scale insects are common pests of trees, shrubs, and other plants. The adults appear as little circular bumps in various colors (depending on the species) on stems and branches of plant hosts.  Damaged plants appear withered and sickly.  Leaves may turn yellow and drop prematurely. Because the adults are protected from insecticides by their hard coverings, control should be focused on the immature scales (crawlers) before they develop their protective covering.

Mealybugs – Mealybugs infest all plant parts, roots, stems, twigs, leaves, flowers and fruit.  Damaged plants may develop yellow leaves as well as premature leaf drop. Deformation is caused by the mealybugs injecting toxins into the plants while feeding. Most common places to look for them are undersides of leaves, stems, branches and in crevices between leaves and stems.

Sooty mold fungus - is caused by sap sucking insects such as whiteflies, aphids, mealybugs, and scale.  The mold grows from a sweet, sticky substance secreted by the plant-sucking insects called honeydew. This appears as a grimy, black soot on the branches and leaves.  While sooty mold does not infect the plants, it can indirectly damage the plant by coating the leaves to the point where photosynthesis is affected. Control this fungus by controlling the insect causing the damage.

Spider mites – Spider mite populations increase during midsummer dry spells and on stressed plants. Look out for feeding marks that appear as light dusting on the upper leaf surface.  Spider mites on plants inhabit the undersides of the leaves, but the damage is noticeable on the upper leaf surfaces. As feeding continues, leaves take on a dull appearance. When infestations are severe, webbing is visible on the plants. Mites are very small but can be seen with a hand lens. 

Thrips – Thrips are extremely active when temperatures are warm, feeding in large groups on many host plants including assorted garden vegetables and flowers.  Damage from thrips includes streaks, silvery speckling, and small white patches. 

Looking for more info? Read more about identifying common garden pests on the Earth’s Ally blog.

9 Essential Tips for Managing Pests

  1. Purchase a hand lens. Plant pests are often difficult to identify with the naked eye. A simple hand lens will help you identify garden pests and make informed decisions.  Choose one that delivers at least 10x magnification.
  2. Practice vigilance in looking for any plant problems. Early detection of pests is essential. Insect pests, such as whiteflies, are often brought into the garden through infested plants from a greenhouse or nursery.  Inspect all new purchases and keep them isolated from your other plants until you can give them a clean bill of health. Thrips, whiteflies, and aphids can transmit diseases as they travel from one plant to another.  Protecting your organic garden is important and using an Insect Control that leaves no harmful residues will keep your plants in good health.
  3. Identify the pest before taking any action to make sure you are not harming the beneficial insects.  If you identify beneficial insects on your plants, they are probably eating the bad ones. Control may not be necessary.  If you are unsure of the identity of an insect, collect it in a jar and take it to a local nursery or County Extension office for identification or purchase an insect field guide to help identify the insect.
  4. Yellow sticky traps are an inexpensive method used to monitor pest populations.  Sticky traps are simply a yellow paper coated with an adhesive. Insects are attracted to the yellow color and stick to the adhesive on the paper.  Sticky traps will attract aphids, leaf-miners, whiteflies, fungus gnats, moths, thrips, and other flying insects. They are used in greenhouses, gardens, orchards and indoors for houseplants to monitor pest populations.
  5. Ask yourself, “Is control necessary?”  If only a few leaves are damaged, you may not need any control.  Keep a sharp eye on the plant to see if control will be necessary in the future. When pests are visibly present, a control like Earth’s Ally Insect Control is beneficial to keep on hand for a quick knockdown on soft-bodied insects.
  6. Grow plants that repel insect pests. Lavender, chrysanthemums, nasturtiums, marigolds, and petunias are just a few plants known to discourage a variety of insects.  Plant these along with pest resistant herbs such as rosemary, thyme, basil, mint, and lavender to help repel unwanted pests. 
  7. Keep your plants healthy. Develop a good quality soil for your plants to thrive. Keep them watered and fertilized to avoid plant stress.  Healthy plants are more likely to survive insect pests.
  8. Create a habitat to lure beneficial insects that will attack your garden pests.  Annuals like alyssum, cosmos, zinnias, sunflowers, and marigolds planted in harmony with perennial flowers and herbs such as yarrow, lavender, mint, fennel, angelica, and tansy will attract numerous beneficials.  Dill, parsley, cilantro, celery, and carrots are biennials.  Leave a few in the ground. They will flower the second season. They provide attractive food sources for a variety of beneficials and are colorful in the garden. Leave some in your vegetable garden to attract the pollinators to your veggies as well.
  9. Identify your caterpillars and provide host plants. If you want to have beautiful butterflies in your garden you must first have caterpillars.  While you don’t want tomato hornworms eating your tomato plants or cabbage loopers eating your cabbage, you do want to welcome other species such as monarchs and tiger swallowtails to your garden.  Consult a field guide to identify caterpillars, adults, and their preferred food. Some butterflies have specific larval food preferences (host plants).  A prime example is the monarch butterfly.  Adults only lay eggs on members of the milkweed family.  Plant milkweeds such as Asclepias Curassavica which will not only flower all summer for you but will encourage monarch butterflies to your garden for both larval food and nectar for the adults. Designate a portion of your yard for caterpillars if you have the space or incorporate larval host plants into your garden design.

We’d love to hear how Earth’s Ally is helping you grow healthy plants. Share your experience with the Insect Control formula and stay connected with the #EarthsAlly community on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for access to our latest blog posts, giveaways and exclusive promotions.

quotation mark right Pest Prevention Tips for Summer’s Most Annoying Bugs
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By Angelo Randaci, Earth’s Ally Master Gardener and Horticulture Expert

What is crabgrass and how did it get here?

Crabgrass seeds were brought to the United States from Europe by immigrants.  Early settlers grew the plants, harvesting the nutritious seeds as a grain.   In the mid-1800s, the US Patent Office introduced crabgrass seeds to grow on as animal forage during a time when livestock numbers were increasing, and good forage was needed. Crabgrass was planted as forage into the 1940s.  It eventually escaped cultivation, taking up residence in cultivated fields and disturbed locations throughout the United States.  There are at least 30 different species of crabgrass however, the most common types in North America are hairy crabgrass (Digitaria Sanguinalis), and smooth crabgrass (Digitaria Ischaemum).  Both species are similar, and control methods are the same.

Crabgrass is a very tough, persistent drought-tolerant weed. It flourishes in the toughest growing conditions. In lawns, it maintains a low profile and is adaptable to mowing heights.  Plants can produce seeds with mower blades set as low as ½ inch.  The plants hold up well to heavy foot traffic, even better than the toughest of lawn grasses.   Crabgrass is not only a problem in lawns.  It is a prolific grower in gardens, orchards, and waste places as well. Crabgrass can be a difficult weed to contend with but with a little understanding of their life cycle and identification features, control is possible.

Crabgrass Control and Identification: Seedlings, Habit and Control

It is important to identify crabgrass because control methods are different for the different species of weedy grasses.  Some are annuals like crabgrass, but others are perennials.  There are also differences in root structures as well as the habits and preferences of different grasses.  Misidentification can cause failure to control and even lead to the multiplication of unwanted weeds.

Life Cycle - The life cycle is a simple one. Crabgrass is an annual warm season grass.  Seeds germinate, the plant grows during warm months, and dies after a frost, all during the same year.  Before the plant dies, it produces seeds for next year.  Seeds are dormant for a short period during cold months and germinate when soil temperatures reach 55°F degrees or so.  Then the cycle begins again; seeds germinate, plant grows, sets seed for next year, then dies.  In tropical climates, it may grow as a perennial, flowering and setting seeds all year.  

Seedlings - When seedlings emerge, they resemble small corn plants. Crabgrass seedings have lime green colored broad leaves as opposed to the thinner, darker leaves of other grasses.  Because Crabgrass is a warm-season grass, seedlings emerge whenever soil temperatures in your area reach 55°F degrees or above.  A grass persisting through cold months will most likely be a perennial cool-season grass.  This is a good identifying feature if you live in areas receiving frosts because if you see plants in early spring that survived the winter, they will be a cool season grass and not crabgrass.  

Habit - Crabgrass habit is distinctive.  It has a prostrate habit, almost hugging the ground in a single clump. The stems radiate from a single root in the center of the plant, but roots develop at nodes along the prostrate stems. You will often see a reddish hue in the center of the clump.  Crabgrass stems do not have underground runners. If you pull the plant out of the soil and it has long-running underground stems, it is not crabgrass.  Crabgrass thrives in heat and is often found growing along the edges of lawn areas where soil meets the pavement or wherever the soil is warmest.  

Crabgrass Control

The most common question regarding crabgrass control: how to get rid of crabgrass? Controlling crabgrass involves removing the adult plants before they set seeds which can remain viable for years in the soil.

An effective crabgrass killer is hand pulling. If hand pulling, water the area first to soften the soil. Uproot crabgrass with a tool or hand pull. A claw type weeder works well.

Crabgrass seeds require ample sunlight for germination to occur.  Without adequate sunlight, the seeds will remain dormant.  If in a garden situation, practice no till methods to avoid bringing up crabgrass seeds to the surface.

For a safe alternative to glyphosate or other harsh herbicides, you can spot-treat crabgrass patches with a weed killer like Earth's Ally. It is formulated with sea salt, soap and vinegar. This solution is safe for use around children and pets.

We’d love to hear how Earth’s Ally is helping you tame troublesome weeds. Share your experience and stay connected with the #EarthsAlly community on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for access to our latest blog posts, giveaways and exclusive promotions.

quotation mark right Why is Crabgrass Such a Pain?
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By Angelo Randaci, Earth’s Ally Master Gardener and Horticulture Expert

Shade Loving Plants

Shade gardens are some of the most soothing comfortable places to spend a lazy afternoon. They are a respite from the summer heat, a quiet place for woodland creatures and a wonderful spot for meditation. But not all shade is alike. Shade comes in many shapes and styles. There is dense shade, full shade, light shade, and partial shade. There is shade created by shadows and shade created by a thick canopy.  Shade can be gloomy and dim or bright and enlivening. Understanding shade-producing factors will help with plant selection and over-all shade garden design.  A shady location is typically considered any area that receives less than 6 hours of full, direct sunlight.  There are several variables to consider when defining a shade area and shade loving plants as mentioned above.  First observe what is creating the shade: What are the sun-blocking structures; a building, a tree, many trees, tall shrubbery, fencing?  A garden next to a shade-creating building is different than a location underneath a tree. 

Next figure out how much shade is available.  Does the time of the year or time of day change the shaded area? What is the size and shape of the trees or shrubs creating the shade?  Your latitude is another variable: how far north or south is your location? The distance from the equator defines the intensity of the sun at various times of year.

While many plants are tolerant of shade, most plants that grow in shade benefit from bright light.  An hour or two of early morning sun and a splash of late afternoon setting sun can brush over most plants without harm. 

Shade gardens, like all gardens, start with a nutrient rich well-drained soil.  This is key to being successful with any garden.  All the plants mentioned here will benefit from amended soil.

6 Types of Garden Shade

  1. Dense Shade: The most challenging type of shade to successfully grow healthy plants is dense shade. Dense shady areas are defined as spaces that receive no direct sunlight and very little bright light. 
  2. Deep Shade: Deep shade is created from overhangs, dense canopy trees, tall shrubs, evergreens, buildings or walls.  If at all possible, these areas should be amended in order to create an environment where plants can thrive.  It may mean selectively pruning trees or shrubs to open up the canopy and allow more light to filter in. If your shade is caused by a dense canopy of trees, planting challenges exist below the ground as well.  Tree roots, especially from shallow rooted trees, such as maple trees, compete with your plants for moisture and nutrients.  Digging under trees is difficult and adding soil to make planting easier is only a temporary solution because tree roots will eventually penetrate the top layer of soil.  Instead of planting these difficult areas, consider installing garden art or carve out a seating area instead of plantings.  Plant along the outside edges of the trees where there is ample light and less root competition.  Add containerized plants to your composition and move them to brighter light when they become stressed.  If your dense shade comes from tall buildings, walls or fences, amending the soil or raising beds will allow you to grow plants that normally would not grow in a full shade garden.
  3. Tree Shade: The degree of shade varies among different species of trees.  For instance, the area under a linden tree would be considered dense shade whereas the area under a honey locust would be dappled shade (see below for description of dappled shade). 
  4. Full Shade: This type of shade is less demanding for plant selection than dense shade. Full shade plants need areas that are shady all day with very little if any direct sunlight but may receive some reflected light and more or less light during different seasons.  You can brighten these spaces for plants that grow in full shade by providing reflected light.  Use Light colored fences, pathways or other light-colored structures to bring light to these shady spaces.
  5. Light Shade or Dappled Shade: Light shade or dappled shade is defined as an area where there is shade, but some light is available at the same time. Many plants will grow in this type of light.  Plants for light shade areas may include a tree that provides a dappled shade underneath its canopy is the Thornless Honey Locust.  Its small leaves and open structure allow light to penetrate the canopy to provide a pleasant combination of light and shade. Woodland  plants such as ferns will thrive in dappled shade with moist soil.
  6. Part Shade: These areas receive direct sunlight, but only during predictable parts of the day.  There are two categories of part shade, morning shade, where areas are shaded in the early morning hours but receive sun in the afternoon and afternoon shade, in which there is sun in the morning but shade in the afternoon.  Many shade plants will thrive with morning sun and many sun loving plants with thrive with afternoon sun.

Plant Labels

Understanding plant labels is sometimes confusing where sun vs. shade tolerance is concerned.  A plant label might read “plant in shade” or “plant in part shade” but what part of the day? This is important when placing plants. If your garden area receives afternoon sun, you are basically looking at sun plants. If the area receives only morning sun then most shade plants will grow in that area.  So, if the plant tag recommends part shade or part sun conditions you can follow these guidelines:  If a label reads part sun to sun, this means it will grow and bloom with a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight.  Although these plants will tolerate some shade, they will achieve the best growth with lots of sun.  If a label reads part shade to shade, this indicates the plant prefers to grow in less than six hours of direct sunlight per day and grows best with morning sun. If a label reads sun or shade this plant will grow in any amount of sunlight.

Shade Garden Design Ideas

Assess your type of shade, dense shade, full shade, light or dappled shade, or part shade. In need of shade garden ideas? Make any changes such as thinning a tree canopy to allow more light penetration or adding trees to provide more shade.  Add heavy pieces of garden art while easy access to the area before putting in plant beds.

Consider how to get water to the garden.  Providing adequate water is often a challenge in shade because shady areas tend to be dry.  Even during a heavy rain, a good amount of the water is deflected from the canopy of trees or overhangs around buildings. 

Create curved garden beds.  Gentle curves add a calming effect.  The gentle sweep of a curve helps soften harsh lines and encourage movement through the garden. Use a hose to outline the curves to see where you want them before defining the beds.  

After the shape and location of the beds is decided, put in your garden paths.  Your garden path will create a sense of purpose and destination. You can use mulch, gravel, or visit your local stone yard to see the many types of stones that are available.  Keep in mind that while mulch is an inexpensive way to go, it will need refreshing every year or two. Irregular shaped stones will add to a natural look whereas square or round ones will look more formal. 

This is a golden opportunity to beautify a tired lawn area struggling from the shaded conditions. Keep a small area of turf but surround it with your shade garden plants.  If too much shade for turf, plant shade-loving groundcovers instead and create a pathway through them.

Add garden art.  Garden art creates a focal point and attracts attention to the garden.  Adding art to the garden will create contrast in texture and shape from the plants.  Use art to insert a splash of color to the garden.  A colorful container will increase color beyond the shades of green from your plants.  If you live in colder climates garden art will create winter interest while your plants are sleeping.

The backbone of your shade garden will come from foliage. Combine different leaf colors, shapes and sizes to create a colorful mosaic of texture and form.  Use plants with different textures by combining large bold-leaved plants such as hostas with finer textures such as gold-colored sedges, liriope and ferns.

Go with lots of light colors to brighten up the darker shaded areas. Use variegated selections of plants to add extra color.  Shade gardens are more about leaf color than flower color.

Plant shade-loving shrubs for dramatic color.  Hydrangeas are one of the most colorful shrubs for shade. They perform best when receiving morning sun with shade during the hottest part of the day.  Many varieties need ample moisture during the hot summer months to thrive. Other shrubs include azaleas, rhododendrons and viburnums, all worthy of a place in your shade garden.

Native plants adapted to woodland situations are maintenance free.  Once established, they will flourish in wooded areas.  Many of them will grow and bloom before deciduous trees leaf out, then go dormant during summer months.  Naturalize bulbs such as daffodils, snowdrops and crocus to grow among your wildflowers for an extra early spring show.  

If you have deer visiting your shade areas, choose plants from deer resistant plant lists.  Although no plants are completely deer resistant, there are many plants deer will avoid. 

Many vegetables will grow in partial shade. Leafy vegetables are the most shade tolerant.  Choose colorful varieties such as red leaf lettuce to plant in your shade vegetable garden to provide color as well as fresh additions to your meals.

Augment your garden with shade loving annuals such as impatiens, begonias and fuchsias. They will grow best in areas with 4-6 hours of shade with morning sun, east facing locations or dappled shade. Include caladiums to add vivid color and diversity of foliage.  

We’d love to hear how Earth’s Ally is helping you grow shade loving plants. Share your experience and stay connected with the #EarthsAlly community on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for access to our latest blog posts, giveaways and exclusive promotions.

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By Angelo Randaci, Earth’s Ally Master Gardener and Horticulture Expert

Creating the Right Planting Environment

“We lost too many plants in our impatience to possess them, because we had not achieved the proper growing conditions.”

-Beth Chatto, The Beth Chatto Handbook

Growing a plant labeled ‘easy care’ is not always easy. Unless given the right conditions, any plant can fail. When planted in locations favorable for their growth, the ‘easy care’ part becomes easier.   

One of the major solutions to gardening failures can be summed up with four words: right plant, right place.

The concept of “right plant, right place” simply implies plants will thrive best when planted in an environment most conducive to their growth.  Healthy plants grown in ideal conditions will be less labor intensive and less likely to succumb to disease, insect or environmental problems.  Here are some tips to help you place plants in their right place for optimal growth.

What to Plant and Plant Habitat

Find out how tall and wide a plant will be at maturity, so it won’t have to be moved if it outgrows its space.  A little research or advice from your garden center will help you choose a variety that will stay within your bounds. If there are aerial wires around your property you may want to choose dwarf or semi-dwarf trees and shrubs. When planting trees, don’t plant too close to a building because the roots and trunk can harm the foundation and will have to be removed at some point. Areas under windows require plants that will not block views.  The wrong selection of a ground cover can become an invasive nightmare, for instance a running-type of bamboo will send up shoots everywhere, whereas a clumping bamboo will stay in one place.  If tree space is limited choose a columnar variety that will grow tall and narrow or choose a dwarf growing variety.  There are plant selections to fit most any sized space in your yard.  

Planting Soil Conditions: Wet Soil, Dry Soil

An area that stays dry requires plants that thrive in various degrees of dry soil.  In this case, you are limited to succulents and other drought tolerant plants.  Likewise, if you have a wet area, you will need to select plants that thrive in wetter conditions.  If you don’t want to limit yourself to these conditions you can repair old, dry soils by adding organic matter, potting or construct raised beds to add healthy soil. A wet area may require adding drainage of some sort; a French drain, drainage pipes, or raising a plant bed to accommodate a well-drained soil.

Turf: Growing Grass

An emerald-green lawn in sun is beautiful but very high maintenance requiring regular watering and is often challenged by disease and pests.  Limit your turf area by removing it and putting in plant beds consisting of annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs.  

An area in shade will require a shade tolerant turf.  Even a shade tolerant turf will show signs of stress against competition from tree roots or heavy foot traffic in low light.  The solution to this issue could also become a new design feature on your property.  Where there is foot traffic you can add attractive paving stones, bricks or other material. Areas under trees could become beautiful shade gardens. Plants in an area under tree roots will compete for nutrients and water.  If this is the case hang containers from the tree branches and put containerized plants around the base of the tree.

General Tips:

Know your USDA hardiness zone. Knowing your zone will dictate what plants will tolerate your climate conditions. Plants you purchase will have a zone or zone range listed on either their plant tag or website.  If your zone is equal to the zone listed for the plant, it will grow in your area if you follow its cultural requirements.

  • Choose plants that are tolerant of low water conditions once established.  
  • Whenever possible, choose varieties of your favorite plants that are disease and pest resistant.
  • Avoid monoculture.  Choose a diversity of plants that will bring color and interest all season.
  • Do not mix plants with different water requirements.
  • If irrigating, purchase drip irrigation and soaker hoses. This puts the water where you need it.
  • Mulch your plants to conserve moisture, keep roots cool in the summer and hold heat during winter months.
  • A yard with a slope will gather water at the base. Plant moisture-loving plants there and more drought tolerant plants near the middle and top of the slope.
  • Place plants prone to diseases such as powdery mildew in areas that receive plenty of air circulation.
  • Amend the soil for best results.  Recycle kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, lawn clippings and leaves to your compost pile.  If space is limited, purchase compost either in bags or in bulk and spread it on your garden. 

The right plant situation can change as your plants grow. Plants that were once in full sun will be subject to increasing shade as your landscape matures.  If your plants begin stretching for more sunlight or have weak growth and poor flowering, then it is time to change to shade-loving plants in that area.

Planting the right plant in the right place or creating an environment for the right plant will reward you with beautiful, lasting garden spaces.  Experiment with your spaces, a little experimentation will open the door to greater possibilities in plant selection. You may even discover a niche where a fussy plant will be perfectly happy.  Remember even the most limited landscape situations have solutions to help broaden your plant palette.  

We’d love to hear how Earth’s Ally is helping you grow healthy plants in the right place. Share your experience with our formulas and stay connected with the #EarthsAlly community on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for access to our latest blog posts, giveaways and exclusive promotions.

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