This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

Missouri Organic Mulch, Compost, Bulk Soil

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~ Houseplant Care
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Seeds Indoors
~ Seed Starting Indoors
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Shrub Pruning Calendar
~ Pruning Clematis 
~ Gardening in the Shade
~ Summer-Flowering Bulb Care
~ Drought-Tolerant Flowers for KC
~ Preparing for a Soil Test
~ Changing the pH of Your Soil
~ Growing Herbs
~ All About Composting
~ All About Mulch
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~ Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
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~ Cold Frames & Hot Beds
~ When to Divide Perennials
~ Dividing Spring Blooming Perennials
~ Forcing Bulbs Indoors
~ Overseeding A Lawn
~ Pruning Trees
~ Pruning Shrubs
~ Planting Trees
~ Deer Resistant Plants
~ Trees that Survived the Storm
~ Stump Removal Options for the Homeowner
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May 24, 2006

Much Needed Rain...
I was glad to hear the rain against the skylight early this morning. We sure needed it. Funny how just a couple of weeks ago we received close to six inches and now it is dry again. Between the exceptionally warm temperatures, the wind and humidity I feel as if it is already July. It is supposed to be warm (or should I say hot) for the Memorial day weekend. Temperatures are supposed to be up in the 90's. I guess you couldn't ask for nicer weather if you were going to the lake or pool. Not us. Our house will be on the market soon so work, pack, work some more, you get the idea. At least we have an extended weekend to get some much needed work done.

Don't forget to mulch once you have everything planted and in the ground. Mulch is key. It keeps weeds down, retains moisture, keeps the soil at a more constant temperature and it looks nice. Our friends at Missouri Organic offer all types and they deliver to your front door. Buying in bulk is certainly cheaper than buying it by the bag so visit their web site, choose your product, give them a call and it is as easy as that. Don't forget to tell them that you are a Savvygardener subscriber and that you heard about them through the newsletter.

~ Shelly  

Green Leaves Falling...
We've noticed that a lot of maple and birch trees in our area are losing their leaves.  Concerned for their health we contacted Ward Upham at K-State Extension. Apparently the problem is regional and is affecting sycamore, maple, pin oak and birch trees.  According to Upham this phenomenon is environmental - due to shock. "It's probably related to the very cool weather we had earlier this month, followed by the extreme heat we experienced the third week in May. "Winter's drought didn't help much, either - especially in those areas that have again become dry."

Fortunately, healthy trees should recover, he said. "If they've lost enough leaves, the affected trees will simply throw out a new set," Upham said. "So, you just need to make sure they get enough moisture to stay out of drought stress. That will help speed their recovery."

Mulch Matters...
Well, the unofficial start of summer is this weekend (Memorial Day).  As the real thing sneaks up on Kansas City gardeners we must prepare our gardens for the heat and drought-like conditions that seem inevitable.  Mulching your garden is one of the best things you can do to help retain soil moisture and keep weeds at bay.  Missouri Organic supplies us with lots of great mulch for our gardens.  Here are some common mulching materials and a few thoughts on each:

  • Bark Mulches are very common and effective.  They are available as chips, chunks, nuggets or shredded.  In addition to being generally attractive bark mulches resist compaction quite well.
  • Wood Chips are also common, effective and economical.  They can deplete the soil of nitrogen however so additional fertilizing may be required.
  • Pine Needles are especially good around acid loving plants like azaleas and blueberries.
  • Straw is inexpensive and is often used in large vegetable gardens.  Make sure it is free of crop and weed seeds or you're just making more work for yourself.
  • Grass Clippings should only be used after they have dried out thoroughly.  If the source lawn has weeds your mulched garden will likely get them too.  Not too attractive.
  • Rocks can be attractive and effective but they don't provide any of the decomposition benefits of organic mulches.  Rock mulch in direct sun can get quite hot causing problems for some tender plants.
  • Black Plastic and Fabric aren't much to look at but they do keep the weeds down.

As a general rule mulching with anything is better than not mulching at all.  It's that effective.

For an in-depth look at this important topic don't miss All About Mulch in our Features section.


Pests Attacking Annuals...
So, your newly planted annuals don't look so good.  Chances are they are the victims of any number of pests. Here are some of the most common problems and some quick solutions:

  • If the leaves on your marigolds turn to "lace", earwigs or slugs are probably nibbling on them at night. Spray with Sevin for earwigs (best in late dusk after bees have stopped feeding). To control slugs apply a product like Sluggo around the plant.
  • Cutworms will eat off newly planted plants at the soil line. Add aluminum foil collars to the stems to protect the plants from the worms.
  • If aphids or spider mites are a problem, spray with insecticidal soap.



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On Your Mark, Get Set, Pinch...
No this isn't a race but if you start pinching back aster, garden phlox and mums now you're sure to win later!  Pinching back the blooms will encourage bushier plants with more flowers.  After some of your summer perennials have tired out and are no longer blooming these plants will start to peak and will add that much needed color to your garden.  Soooo, no need to dust off the running shoes for this race just limber up those thumbs and start pinching!

Tell Me Why...
One of the most common questions we get asked is simply, "Why won't my plant bloom?"  Why indeed.  There are often several factors involved but most can be explained by one of the following circumstances:

  • Age of Plant - Being too young or immature is a very common reason that many trees do not flower.  Plants need to reach a certain level of maturity before they begin to flower each year
  • Shade - Lack of adequate light is another very common reason that many types of plants do not flower.  Plants may grow but not flower in the shade.
  • Cold or Frost Injury - Cold weather may kill flower buds or partially opened flowers.  Plants that are not fully hardy in our area are the most susceptible to this type of cold injury.
  • Drought - Flowers or flower buds dry and drop off when there is temporary lack of moisture in the plants.
  • Improper Pruning - Some plants bloom only on last year’s wood.  Pruning plants at the wrong time of the year can remove the flower buds for next year’s blossoms.  Many spring flowering plants, such as azaleas begin setting next year’s flower buds in the late spring.  Pruning these plants in the summer or fall may prevent flowering next year.  Cutting back a plant severely, such as with climbing roses, can remove all the flowering wood.
  • Nutrient Imbalance - Too much nitrogen can cause plants to produce primarily leaves and stems.  The plant will be large and usually very green and healthy but will have few or no flowers.


Tastier Herbs...
There are lots of good reasons to grow herbs.  First on my list is for cooking.  Nothing compares to the taste of fresh herbs added to your favorite dish.  I used to buy pesto in a jar.  I thought it was good until I started making my own from garden-fresh basil.  There's no going back folks.

If cooking is your goal make sure you do not fertilize your herbs too much.  The essential oils that provide flavor are more concentrated when herbs are grown in moderately rich soil with just enough fertilizer to keep them green.  Too much fertilizer encourages the plant to grow large but at the sacrifice of less flavor.  To get greater quantities without sacrificing quality simply grow many more, albeit smaller, plants.

Take A Powder...
A white powdery film on your lawn is likely an outbreak of powdery mildew. This fungal disease is favored by cool spring or fall weather, and is common in shaded areas. Kentucky bluegrass in shady areas is especially susceptible.  High nitrogen levels also favor disease development.  Fortunately, while it is not very attractive, powdery mildew rarely causes significant damage to turf.

"Grass is the forgiveness of nature - her constant benediction.
Forests decay, harvests perish, flowers vanish, but grass is immortal."

~ John J. Ingalls

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