This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

Missouri Organic Mulch, Compost, Bulk Soil

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~ When to Divide Perennials
~ Dividing Spring Blooming Perennials
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June 7, 2006

Hot and Droopy...
Boy is it hot! I was going to mow the lawn today but now that it is late afternoon it is going to have to wait until morning. Sam Parker, the family dog and I just returned from a walk around the block and the heat and humidity make a mean combination. Not to mention the stiff (hot) breeze. The wind will dry things out quickly so keep an eye on your pots and newly planted flowers. As I sit here looking out the window I can see that the Black-eyed Susan and the Shasta daisy's look as if they could use a drink. Droopy looking plants don't always mean they need water. Both of these plants are drooping because they are in full, late afternoon sun. They will continue to look that way until the sun sets and it starts to cool off. If they don't bounce back that is a sign they need a drink. Both of those plants are heat tolerant and drought tolerant so keep them in mind if you need something to plant that will tolerate these harsh summer temperatures we are experiencing early.

I received a few e-mails regarding leaving my garden. It is hard. Kevin and I have worked 11 years to create what we have. But you know what? I am excited to start on a new slate. Our present garden was my first real garden. I have learned so much. I have moved plants several times to find exactly the right spot for them to flourish. We have purchased shrubs and trees trying to get the look we want. It has all come together and we feel as if we have succeeded. I leave it with a sense of pleasure. Who would not want to pick up where I have left off? Even a beginning gardener.

~ Shelly  

Controlling Critters On Your Cukes...
The striped cucumber beetle is a serious threat to cucurbits, such as squash, cucumber, melon and pumpkin.  The larvae will cause severe damage to roots and beetles can do a real number on an emerging plant by feeding on the lower surface of its leaves.  These menaces also spread bacterial wilt, cucumber mosaic, and squash mosaic virus.

Although there are several insecticides that control the cucumber beetle, only a few chemicals can be used on cucurbit plants because of their sensitivity to chemical injury. 

Hand-picking is an organic approach and should be done in the early morning when most feeding occurs.  These beetles are easy to kill but reinforcements arriving on the plants make this a very time consuming job.

Insecticides labeled for vegetables containing pyrethrum, rotenone, methoxychlor, or carbaryl (Sevin) should control the beetles.  As always, follow directions and warnings carefully when using chemicals.

Dividing Daylilies...
One of the reasons we love daylilies is their fuss-free nature.  Generally they don't need to be divided as often as many other perennials.  However if you want to increase the number of your favorite cultivars you may want to divide them once in a while.  Savvygardeners should be able to get four new plants from a healthy, 4-year old daylily.  Divide them immediately after flowering, and replant them right away.

Monitor Those Melons...
Recent and upcoming warmer temperatures are sure to give watermelons a growth boost.  Keep an eye on them!  As vines from different plants begin to intermingle, and the canopy becomes thicker, the chances of developing anthracnose increase.  It's a good idea to scout watermelon patches once or twice a week for this disease.  Look for multiple small brown to black spots on leaves.  These spots are typically associated with leaf veins.  As the spots coalesce and dry out, the leaf may appear tattered.  It's a good idea to implement a preventive fungicide spray schedule, especially during rainy periods.  Chlorothalonil, mancozeb and azoxystrobin (Quadris) are labeled for anthracnose control.  Azoxystrobin should be rotated with one of the other fungicides to help prevent potential resistance problems.



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Give 'Em Room To Breathe...
Just because your plant is wilting don't assume it's due to lack of water.  Plants can wilt from lack of oxygen too!  Soil can become over-compacted and cause root systems to suffocate.  The problem is often made worse by assuming the plant is thirsty and adding water unnecessarily.

Improving the soil for better air and water circulation is easy.  Simply add peat moss or other loose organic material in and around the root area of your plants. Everyone will breathe easier!

New Trees From Cuttings...
Now is a good time to start new trees and shrubs from existing ones. Many ornamental trees and shrubs can be reproduced by taking cuttings from new growth that occurred this spring. Though these softwood cuttings root relatively easily, they are susceptible to wilting and need close attention to watering and relative humidity.

  • It is best if cuttings are taken after a rain or several hours after the plant has been well watered.
  • Stems should be mature enough that they snap rather than bend when placed under pressure.
  • Cuttings should be about 6 inches long with cuts made at an angle just below a node, the area where a leaf joins the stem. The angle provides a larger cut surface and more area for the cutting to callus and root.
  • Strip off the lower leaves and place the cutting in a moist rooting media after it has been dipped in rooting powder. Several rooting mediums are suitable including sand with peat moss, sand with vermiculite, perlite with peat moss, and perlite with vermiculite. A suitable medium should provide good moisture-holding capacity and be open enough to provide good aeration to the roots.
  • Relative humidity should be kept at a high level by enclosing the container or containers in a plastic bag. Use wooden dowels or a similar object to keep the plastic off the top of the cuttings.
  • Place the rooting container in bright, indirect light and check often for watering needs.

Though some plants can be rooted directly in water, roots formed in water do not adapt well to soil.  When roots are about 1 inch long, cuttings can be removed from the propagation chamber and potted.


Dividing Ornamental Grass...
If large clumps of ornamental grasses such as maiden grass have hollow centers, this is a sign they need dividing for best growth. Large clumps can have massive roots and be quite heavy, so we find it easier to just divide pieces off the sides rather than to lift the whole clump. A square-tipped spade works best for this. You may even need to get such divisions started with a hatchet!


Disappointing Turf?
If the appearance of your lawn after mowing is not what you expect there are a few things worth evaluating.

  1. Check your mowing height.  You should mow as high as possible for the specific grass type (2 to 3 inches is a healthy height for most lawn grasses).
  2. Consider your mowing frequency. A higher mowed turf will need to be mowed less frequently and scalp less often than a closely mowed turf.
  3. Probably most importantly, check the sharpness of your mower bladeDull or damaged mower blades do not cut cleanly and leave ragged leaf tips. These ragged wounds are very stressful to the turf plant, and provide an excellent opportunity for some disease pathogens to penetrate and infect the plant.

"'Long about knee-deep in June,
'Bout the time strawberries melts
On the vine."

~ James Whitcomb Riley

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