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Top 10 horticulture tips from veteran MU Extension agronomist

Media contact:

Milly Carter
Administrative Associate, Urban Region
University of Missouri Extension
Phone: 816-252-7717
Email: carterm@missouri.edu

Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Story source:

Pat Miller, 417-448-2560

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. – During her 23 years as a University of Missouri Extension agronomy specialist, Pat Miller has answered a lot of questions and looked at a lot of plants. Here are her top 10 horticulture tips.


  1. Never use a string weeder near young tees. Once girdled, they will die.
  2. Check the mature size before planting any trees or shrubs. I know it’s hard to believe that this little twig will someday be 60 feet tall and growing into the power lines, but it happens. And I know this little shrub may look like it’s out in the middle by itself. But it will fill in the space eventually; just plant some annuals around it in the meantime.
  3. Check light and water requirements before planting. Plants needing full sun, such as peonies, won’t bloom well in shade. And shade plants like hostas will sunburn in full sun. Plants like impatiens that need lots of moisture won’t thrive in droughty soil, and plants like butterfly bushes that like dry conditions will probably die in a wet spot.
  4. Make pruning cuts back to the branch collar or just out from a bud; don’t leave stubs. Don’t top trees, as this weakens the tree and causes regrowth that is more likely to break in storms.
  5. Know the expected problems and be prepared to take control measures, or plant resistant varieties. Roses get black spot unless they are sprayed regularly with fungicides or are resistant to the disease.
  6. Protect the trunks of young trees during the winter to prevent frost cracks. These cracks occur when we have cold nights and sunny days or drastic drops in temperature. Maples are especially prone to this.
  7. Growing fruit is a lot of work: spraying, thinning, pruning and then harvesting and preserving. Count the cost before planting.
  8. Blueberries require an acid soil. Do a soil test and amend the soil with sulfur as recommended six months to a year before planting. They also need frequent irrigation.
  9. Mow tall fescue lawns at 3-4 inches in the summer. The grass will be healthier and shade out weeds better. Keep mower blades sharp to make the grass look greener and help prevent water loss and diseases.
  10. Use a herbicide that kills only grasses to reduce weeding chores. It will probably require several applications. Use a pre-emergent herbicide and mulch in areas where you don’t need plants to reseed, like your perennial and shrub beds. This will reduce your weeding chores.