, Gloucester, MA

July 19, 2013

Do your part to stop worst mosquito season in years

North Shore Gardener
Barbara Barger

---- — This summer is going to be a good year for bugs. The past winter was moderate and moist, and bugs that are usually killed will live on and multiply. In fact, this may be one of the worst mosquito seasons in recent memory.

Do your part — prevent mosquitoes from breeding in and around your home and garden by dumping every drop of water that you can see — and the few you can’t. Begin with standing water: Empty the kids’ wading pool every few days; empty all stagnant water in saucers under plants. If the pots are too heavy to lift, then use an old kitchen baster to drain the water. Empty all pet water dishes at least daily; scout around for any cans that may have been dropped by the garbage truck, which may have collected water from the rain or the sprinkler.

Did you ever think that a clogged gutter could be a prime mosquito-breeding spot? Empty gutters several times each summer.

Q. Which is better, liquid or solid fertilizer?

A: Liquid may be easier, and you can spray some liquids directly on the leaves for fast absorption. Check out the fertilizer sales now. The more expensive fertilizer will carry a higher number. A 5-10-5 and a 10-20-10 have the same content, but the higher numbers indicate a higher percentage of ingredients, so that fertilizer will be more expensive. But do you need the higher concentration?

Solids stay in the soil longer, release more slowly and are usually less expensive. Be a label reader and compare total nutrition, then buy.

Q: Can I store fertilizer over the winter? There are so many sales as we gear down now. How about grass seed?

A: Yes, but be sure that you have a place to store them before you buy them. The storage area should be dark, cool and dry — remember that seed is dinner for rodents, so store it in metal garbage cans with tight lids. If the storage area has a damp floor, such as concrete, then store the storage cans off the floor on pallets. Check the storage area periodically throughout the winter; check for bugs, mice and other small animals that may have been wintering there and feasting on your garden supplies. The best bargains can often be found in larger sizes — share with a neighbor.

Q: One of my favorite things about summer is my endless blue hydrangeas. This year I have lots of blooms, but they are smaller than usual. I admit I did not fertilize it, but could that be why the flowers are so much smaller?

A: Yes, it may be the lack of fertilizer, but also the type used. Feed the plant with a low-nitrogen fertilizer. To make it easy for you and the plant, use a time-release, all-season fertilizer or a slow-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote. You may be able to make the flowers larger by the end of the summer, but you may have to wait until next year.

This week’s dirt: Do you have some plant cuttings sitting on the windowsill and just turning to mush? Some plant cuttings, like rosemary, are difficult to start. Try using a green glass container instead of clear glass. I think you’ll see a difference.

North Shore Gardener by Barbara Barger is a periodic feature of Friday’s Living section. Reach Barbara at or write c/o Gloucester Daily Times, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930. Previous North Shore Gardener columns can be found at