This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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May 17, 2006

Constant Gardening...
I had a couple of readers email me with some interesting thoughts about me being completed with my present garden. I must say that I agree with them to some degree. I don't really feel that a garden is ever complete. If we were to live in this house for another 10 years there would still be plenty of things I would change. I believe that I am a constant gardener. A gardener that believes that there is always room for one more plant or one more "secret garden". However at this particular time I am proud of the work that Kevin and I have accomplished and we both look forward to starting fresh. I also hope that whoever buys our house will also continue to work on the present bones of our landscape. Maybe there is another constant gardener out there just looking for gardens like ours. We're keeping our fingers crossed.

So how about all of those beautiful peonies in bloom? I don't believe that there is a flower as beautiful as the peony. Oh, and did I mention my love for its fragrance? I can smell them now as I write about them. My dad cut some from his garden to share with me and the whole house smells of peonies. They are special peonies, transplanted from my grandmother's garden to my dads. So I get the pleasure of knowing how pleased my grandmother would be that I am enjoying her peonies and then there is my dad who is proud as well. Generation gardening. How fun!

~ Shelly  

Fingers On Pines...
We have had so many problems on pines that people are starting to suspect anything out of the ordinary as a possibly serious condition. For example, pines in flower look strange close up and people start to suspect a disease is attacking their tree. It is usually the male flowers that draw notice. Pines are monoecious; that is they have both male and female flowers on the same plant. The male flowers appear as multiple "fingers" that come out all around the stem near the end of a branch. The flowers are tan to brown and often curl somewhat. Shaking the branch will release a cloud of pollen if the flower is mature. Female flowers look a little like miniature hand grenades and are formed on the tips of some branches.

Winning By Thinning...
A bountiful vegetable patch requires thinning when crops are grown from seed.  Be aware that vegetables behave like weeds when they are overabundant. Overcrowding among root crops causes poorly formed roots.  A good thinning program will:

  • Reduce the competition among seedlings for soil nutrients and water.
  • Promote better air circulation around the plants thereby reducing the chances of disease development.
  • Ultimately make higher yields possible.

For a list of common garden vegetables and recommendations for their spacing click here.

Zoysia Tips...
Zoysia lawns are finally looking good all around the metro.  Now that they are greening up and growing you will want to make sure you do the following:

  • Reduce thatch layers from zoysia by verticutting or core aerating. 
  • Sod or sprig zoysia lawns to fill in bare areas.
  • Fertilize zoysia lawns with high nitrogen to promote green up and summer growth. 
  • Mow zoysia to 2 to 2 inches tall.

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Getting Antsy About Aphids...
When you see ants crawling on your garden plants, look closely for aphids as well.  Some ant species protect aphids, moving them from plant to plant and even taking them underground into the anthill for overnight safety (seriously!).  The ants do this to ensure a supply of honeydew, a sugary water substance secreted by aphids, on which ants feed.


Vine Crop Villains...
Savvygardeners need to be vigilant for the two most destructive insect foes of vine crops - the cucumber beetle and the squash bug.  Cucumber beetles, like most vegetable insects must be controlled early to prevent damage to the seedling and transmission of diseases like bacterial wilt.  Planting a trap crop, applying neem oil soap and using row covers are effective non-chemical methods to manage this insect pest.  Squash bugs can be repelled with insecticidal soap in addition to garlic and pepper sprays.


Miners Not Allowed...
Many species of boxwood are attacked by the boxwood leaf miner, whose activity becomes very noticeable in mid spring. American boxwood is particularly susceptible. Blister like orange spots are a sign of the larvae of this insect, which hides between the leaf surfaces and feeds there until it emerges. The adults, orange in color and gnat-like, are easily controlled with a pyrethroid insecticide. Heavier infestations should be treated with a systemic insecticide containing imidacloprid.


Dull Blade Equals Brown Blades...
Have you ever noticed your grass turning brown at the tips several days after mowing
(photo)?  A quick look under the mowing deck might explain it all.  Chances are, your mower blade is not sufficiently sharp.  A quick visit to the local hardware store will fix the problem for about $5.

Remember to sharpen your mower blade several times each season.  It's even a good idea to keep a spare blade on hand.  That way you always have a sharp one.

"Every novice gardener made the mistake of wanting rewards at once, and she smiled to recognize the failing in herself. But recognition didn't stop her from pursuing what she wanted."

~ Rosie Thomas

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