This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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~ When to Divide Perennials
~ Dividing Spring Blooming Perennials
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May 3, 2006

Wet Weekend...
It is either feast or famine. No rain at all or 3 inches at a time. Last weekend was a stay at home and get things done weekend. Take sports out of the weekend and it is funny how there seems to be some extra time. We spent all of Saturday packing up things that we are not currently using. Needless to say there is plenty of that stuff lying around. Where does all of that stuff come from? I would never accumulate that much stuff in my gardens. I do equate the two at times and even Kevin will say that the gardens often come first. No clutter or leaves laying around. Attention to detail a must. Perhaps I need to work on honing my housekeeping skills with my keeping a great looking garden skills. I for one believe that housework is not nearly as much fun. Sure you get the same type of gratification but only the family gets to appreciate the inside of the house. When it comes to the gardens everyone in the neighborhood or for that matter the people who drive down our street get to enjoy them. So for now I will continue down my path and try to find a happy medium along the way. Maybe moving into a new house will give me the opportunity to start fresh.

I know in last weeks newsletter I spilled the beans and let you all know that we are moving. We are staying in Kansas City so no need to be alarmed. will keep coming weekly. We've had several e-mails inquiring about our move. Kevin and I will take pictures of the new house and gardens as soon as we are in. The gardens are in good shape but as always it will be fun to go in and make them mine. Nothing quite as satisfying as that. We promise to keep you posted.

So, are you in need of outside furnishings? Visit our newest sponsor Courtyard Patio for the latest in outdoor seating. Great selections and professionals to assist you. Kevin and I will be visiting their showroom soon. Our new house needs patio furniture. As much time as we spend outside I am just as choosy about my outside furnishings as I am my inside. Visit their Overland Park location soon. Tell them you heard about them from us, print out the ad and receive a special in-store discount!

~ Shelly  

Orange Worms On Junipers?
If you've seen what appears to be clumps of orange jelly-like worms on your junipers
(photo) you are actually looking at cedar-apple rust. This rust fungi spends a portion of its life cycle on hosts such as apple, flowering crab, and hawthorn, and another portion on species of Juniperus (which includes eastern red cedar).  The effects of these diseases on junipers are minimal.

Cedar-apple rusts produce reddish-brown galls on the twigs of juniper. These woody galls usually are to 2 inches in diameter. In early April, galls swell and produce orange, one-inch long, gelatinous tendrils that remain on the galls through May. Trees with numerous galls are easily identified by their bright orange cast during rainy weather. The galls of cedar-apple rust last only one season; the spent galls dry and fall from the tree during the summer months.


Ants In Your...
Not your pants, but your peonies!  If you have peonies you no doubt have noticed a proliferation of ants scurrying to and fro across the flower buds.   Those ants are the source of many "old gardener's tales" that have been handed down over the ages.  Here's the deal:  The ants are there because of the nectar-like substance secreted by the peony.  Chances are that the ants you see on your peonies are already living in your garden - the peonies just draw them out of the soil and make them more visible.  In other words, peonies are not increasing your local ant population (which creepily number in the hundreds of thousands or more).  Some say that the ants actually help peonies bloom.  Most experts disagree but since they do no harm it's best to just let them enjoy your peonies as much as you do.

Cutworms Collared...
Cutworms can be a real problem for gardeners setting out transplants.  Protect your newly transplanted plants with collars.  Simply cut strips of cardboard 2 inches wide by 8 inches long and staple them into a band.  Place this collar around the plant stem and press it about 1 inch into the soil.  Simple and very effective!

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A Clip In Time...
The proper time to prune continues to vex many gardeners.  This time of year can get confusing because some shrubs are flowering, some are done, and others are still getting ready.  Here's the deal:

Shrubs that flower in the spring are normally pruned immediately after flowering.  Examples of these types of plants include forsythia, Vanhoutte spirea, flowering quince, lilac and mockorange.  Though pruning during the dormant season does not harm the health of the plant, the flowering display will be reduced.  Shrubs that bloom on current season's growth or that do not produce ornamental flowers are best pruned in late winter to early spring.  Examples include Rose-of-Sharon, Bumald Spirea and Japanese Spirea.

There are three basic methods used in pruning shrubs:

  • Thinning is used to thin out branches from a shrub that is too dense.  It is accomplished by removing most of the inward growing twigs by either cutting them back to a larger branch or cutting them back to just above an outward facing bud.  On multi- stemmed shrubs, the oldest canes may be completely removed. 
  • Heading back is removing the end of a branch by cutting it back to a bud and is used for either reducing height or keeping a shrub compact.  Branches are not cut back to a uniform height as this will result in a "witches-broom" effect.
  • Rejuvenation is the most severe type of pruning and is normally done during the dormant season.  It may be used on multi-stem shrubs that have become too large with too many old branches to justify saving the younger canes.  All stems are cut back to 3- to 5-inch stubs.  This works well for spirea, forsythia, pyracantha, ninebark, Russian almond, little leaf mock orange, shrub roses and flowering quince.


Battling Blight...
Early blight and Septoria blight are the two most common foliar diseases of tomato.  Early blight produces brown spots (up to inch in diameter) on infected leaves.  Concentric rings of darker brown often appear in the leaf spots.  Septoria blight produces small brown spots (approximately 1/8 inch in diameter) with tan or gray centers and dark edges.  Both diseases cause heavily infected leaves to eventually turn brown, die, and fall off.  Lower leaves are infected first with the diseases progressing upward during the growing season. 

Savvygardeners can reduce blight problems on their tomatoes with good cultural practices.  Here's some tips:

  • Start by selecting stocky, healthy plants at a garden center or greenhouse.
  • Plant your tomatoes in a different location in the garden each year.  Rotate crops so that tomatoes and other solanaceous crops (potatoes, peppers, and eggplants) are not grown in the same area for at least 3 or 4 years.  Obviously this may not be feasible for those with small vegetable gardens - just try to rotate as much as possible.
  • When planting, space tomatoes approximately 3 feet apart.  Adequate spacing allows good air movement and promotes rapid drying of plant foliage. 
  • Grow tomato plants in wire cages.  The foliage of tomatoes grown in cages will dry more rapidly than those sprawled on the ground.
  • Avoid wetting tomato foliage when watering.  Apply water directly to the ground around plants with drip irrigation, a soaker hose or slow running hose.  If a sprinkler must be used, water in the morning so the foliage dries quickly. 
  • If blight occurs, remove and destroy infected leaves as they appear.  Prompt removal of infected leaves may slow the progress of the blights.  At the end of the gardening season, remove and destroy all infected tomato plants.  Clean up and dispose of as much tomato plant debris as possible.


Controlling Cankerworms...
Cankerworms, also knows as inchworms are a common pest at this time of year. There are actually two species of cankerworm: spring cankerworm, Paleacrita vernata, and fall cankerworm, Alsophilia pometeria. Though the common names may suggest otherwise, larvae from both species appear in the spring. "Spring" and "fall" refer to when the females lay their eggs.

Cankerworms feed on a wide variety of deciduous trees including oak, ash, elm, linden and apple. Larvae vary from green to reddish-brown to black and have one or more white, pale green, or black stripes. Cankerworms are general defoliators and may skeletonize leaves. Eventually, only the midribs of leaves remain.

Cankerworms can be detected by rapping on branches. This disturbs cankerworms, which betray their presence by dropping down on silken threads. If necessary, insecticidal treatments may be applied. Labeled insecticides include permethrin (Bug Stop, Bonide Eight, Kill-A-Bug II), carbaryl (Sevin) and cyfluthrin (Bayer Lawn and Garden Multi-Insect Killer).


The Turfgrass Two-Step?
Most of us are creatures of habit.  When it comes to mowing your lawn you probably follow the same back and forth pattern every time you cut the grass.  Unfortunately this regular practice will eventually wear ruts in the lawn where the mower wheels repeatedly follow the same path.  To avoid this problem try a four-way rotation of cutting patterns.  Picture your lawn as a sheet of paper and try these patterns.  Next week - tango lessons:

  1. Horizontal - left-to-right, turn, right-to-left across the lawn.
  2. Vertical - top-to-bottom, turn, bottom-to-top across the lawn.
  3. Diagonal 1 - bottom-left to top-right, turn, top-right to bottom-left.  Work toward corners.
  4. Diagonal 2 - bottom-right to top-left, turn, top-left to bottom-right.  Work toward corners.

"I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do."

~ Willa Cather

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