This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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April 12, 2006

April, Summer Hotter Than Others...
Ok, it looks as if we had spring in January and we are having summer in April. 81
˚ today and a high of 89˚ tomorrow. I don't know about you but I am not quite ready for these warmer temperatures. 89˚ sounds way too hot for April. Things are going crazy in the garden. All of my tulips are in full bloom. Depending on the weather it is typical for me to have some around until the end of April. I am sure that the heat and wind will have taken care of most of them by next weekend. A short-lived spring season. Speaking of which, I was shopping at Family Tree Nursery the other day and was wanting some pansies. One of their employees, Jeff Drew, told me that people are requesting all types of annuals to plant and that most of their pansies were gone. Pansies gone? But it is just April 12th. How could that be?

We were supposed to get some rain yesterday but it missed us. It is hot and windy today. I bet you know where I am going with this. For those of you who guessed watering you are right! Don't forget to water. Pots, lawns, newly planted anything, especially since it is warmer than expected for this time of the year.

Happy Easter to you and your families!

~ Shelly  

Tipsy Flowers Don't Tip Over...
A new Cornell University study finds that a touch of booze is a great way to keep certain houseplants from getting too tall by stunting their growth. "Dilute solutions of alcohol - though not beer or wine - are a simple and effective way to reduce stem and leaf growth," said William Miller, professor of horticulture and director of the Flower Bulb Research Program at Cornell.

"We think it simply might be water stress, that is, the alcohol makes it more difficult for the plant to absorb water, so the plant suffers a slight lack of water, enough to reduce leaf and stem growth, but not enough to affect flower size or flower longevity." But don't serve beer or wine to plants -- the sugars wreak havoc on their health.


Tuckered Out Tulips?
Unfortunately it's not uncommon for many modern tulip varieties to "wear out" after a few years and eventually produce insignificant blooms or no blooms at all. Here are some tips to increase the chances of perennial blooming of your tulips:

  • Plant the bulbs at the depth indicated on the packaged they arrived in.
  • Water them - especially in the fall - to help develop strong roots.
  • Clip off flower heads after they have bloomed.
  • Do not remove the foliage until it has turned brown and withered.

Daffodil's Deadly Secret...
If you take my cue and decide to cut some flowering bulbs from the garden make sure you keep the daffodils separated from other cuttings. Daffodil stems secrete a fluid that can drastically reduce the life of other cut flowers in the same vase. After a couple of days in a vase they should be OK for sharing the same space.

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Circular Logic...
A popular and effective way to prevent disease in the vegetable garden is called crop rotation.  By rotating the location of vegetable plantings within the garden each season you can greatly reduce the likelihood of soil-borne disease.  This method works best when you rotate crop families from place to place and the rotation includes at least three families.  The effectiveness of crop rotation is diminished when the total gardening area is quite small.  Just do your best!  Here's a list of the most common home garden vegetables and their associated families:

Family Family Members
Alliaceae Chive, garlic, leek, onion, shallot
Apiaceae Carrot, celery, parsley, parsnip
Asteraceae Endive, lettuce
Brassicaceae Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, radish, rutabaga, turnip
Chenopodiaceae Beet, Swiss chard, spinach
Convolvulaceae Sweet potato
Curcurbitaceae Cucumber, gourd, melons, pumpkin, squash
Fabaceae Lima bean, pea, snap bean, soy bean
Malvaceae Okra
Poaceae Corn
Solanaceae Eggplant, pepper, potato, tomato

The Forsythia Clock...
When the forsythia have finished blooming, it is a sign to do several things.

  1. Apply a preemergent herbicide such as Preen (if desired) to garden beds as the soil temperature is now conducive to weed growth.
  2. Rake back mulch around roses and discard.
  3. Prune your roses and dig in a balanced fertilizer.
  4. Apply a crabgrass preventer to lawns if you have had a problem last year.


Second Chance Dandelions...
Readers of our newsletter know that we recommend that dandelions be controlled in the fall. However, if you missed the fall application, a second opportunity for dandelion control is approaching. Research by Purdue University has shown that good control can be achieved with an herbicide applied during or soon after the first flush of flowers. Use a combination product that contains 2,4-D, MCPP and dicamba. Examples would include products such as Trimec, Weed Out, Weed-B-Gon and Weed Free Zone. If you have only a few dandelions, consider spot treatment rather than a blanket application. There are ornamental plants that are very sensitive to drift from these herbicides, so be careful. Avoid spraying on windy days.


Henbit In Lawns...
The plants with the little purple flowers that are starting to make themselves known in home lawns are called henbit. If you are not sure this is what you have, check the stems. If they are square rather than round, you have henbit. Though it actually comes up in the fall, most people do not pay much attention to this weed until it starts to flower. Trying to kill it at this late stage with an herbicide is usually a waste of time and money. Though the plant may be burned back, it will rarely be killed. So what do we do? Remember, this is a winter annual; it comes up in the fall, matures in the spring and dies as soon as it starts to get hot. All that we can do now is keep it mowed until nature takes its course.

However, we can do something next fall that will help next spring. Henbit usually germinates about mid-October. Spraying with 2,4-D, Weed-B-Gon, Weed Free Zone, Weed Out, or Trimec in early November can go a long way toward eliminating henbit next spring. The plants are small during the fall and relatively easy to control. 


"A violet in the youth of primy nature,
Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,
The perfume and suppliance of a minute."

~ William Shakespeare

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