Nurse Elizabeth is in the garden

May 8, 2013 

The career of nursing is one of my favorite professions -- especially if I am sick.

Maybe it is because nurses remind me of my mom caring for me when I could not care for myself. Even if nurses have to poke you with pointy things, they do it with a smile.

Nursing in central Georgia is great. But, in my opinion, it is about to become even better since our daughter Elizabeth graduates from nursing school this Saturday. She gets “pinned” on Friday. (Not sure what that is but now our other daughter wants to get pinned too.) Once she graduates Saturday, she already has a job and can begin work the next weekend. What a great profession.

Her RN degree is the culmination of many years of study and work. Elizabeth has taught me some nursing principles that we can apply to gardens. Good gardeners can nurse their gardens to better health to prevent and cure common problems.

Notice the little things. Nurses weigh you, take blood pressure and temperature and ask nosy questions. They notice details that mean little to most of us and they and the doctor use them to solve our problems.

Examine your plants. Once your trees and shrubs are fully leafed out, do some plants still have bare branches? If so, prune these out. Too many bare branches in a shrub or tree can mean that it is stressed. Stress can lead to poor growth and death of the plant. Identify and remove the stress.

Stress can kill people and plants. Stresses usually involve the roots or lower stem. Things that stress plants can include watering too often (more than twice a week) or applying too little or too much water. Aim for one inch of water a week if it does not rain. Was the shrub or tree planted too deeply? Always plant at the level the plant originally grew. Till the ground around the plant at planting creating a wide planting bed. Give new shrubs special watering for six months and new trees for one year.

Lichens on plant stems can also indicate stressed plants. Lichens are typically gray/green leafy growths on the stems and branches of plants. Gardeners think since lichen is growing on an unthrifty plant that the lichen is harming the plant. The reverse is actually true. Lichens grow on plants that are stressed by other factors. To remove the lichens, first identify and remove the stress.

Be patient. In the garden, notice that we are not as far along in the season this year as we were last year. The weather has been cooler and quite erratic. This tells us that we can delay some garden jobs slightly from last year. For instance, I am just getting some of my vegetables in the ground, which is fine. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons, squash, corn and other warm season vegetables can be planted until mid-summer or later. Find a vegetable planting chart at the end of this publication:

Lawns can now be fertilized. Wait until it gets dry to turn on the irrigation system.

Begin spring lawn weed control now; it may be too hot later. There is no herbicide that kills all weeds and works on all lawn grasses. Most weed control programs include a herbicide combination including Dicamba (Banvel), 2,4-D and Mecoprop. Use a combination like this to kill broadleaf weeds in your lawn. Select a type that will work for your specific lawn type. Do not use this herbicide in or near beds of shrubs or trees since it can damage them. It may take two applications of this chemical to kill large weeds. Read and follow all label directions when using any pesticide. For further weed control information, visit

Do not over-do it. Gardeners get excited when gardens turn green and we tend to overdo the fertilizer. Fertilizer rates vary by plant. For instance, centipede lawns should receive half the fertilizer of some other turf types. Find fertilization rates for shrubs and trees at The publication for vegetables I mentioned earlier will have fertilizer information for veggies.

Willie Chance works with the University of Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture and helps to train the turf and landscape industry.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service