This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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June 14, 2006

Happy Campers...
I have had the opportunity to spend the entire week with my youngest son Jake at Scout Camp. We are having a great time in spite of the sweltering heat. There is nothing quite like watching your child and his friends enjoying themselves. They are learning a bit about basic life skills. One in particular is working together as a pack to accomplish a given task. They are learning how important it is to place trust and respect in everyone who surrounds you. The most amazing thing to me is at the age of eight they "get it". They understand respect, encouragement and the importance of being helpful. Not only are they learning but are also having a total blast. Whether it's being squirt with the water hose, a squirt gun or anything else that carries a wet substance. I have so enjoyed my time with my son as well as with the other children.

So did anyone else receive hail damage? Here in Westwood the hail was about golf ball size and the sound of it coming down through the trees was unnerving. We actually lucked out. Most of my plants were saved by the huge tree canopies that cover our property. I know several people who were not as lucky and some of their plants were heavily damaged. I must say that as long as I have lived in Kansas City I have never seen hail that size. Unfortunately there was quite a lot of damage to cars and roofs of homes. The extended forecast looks like a warm one. Hopefully we will see some rain soon. It looks as if we might receive some as early as Sunday.

Happy Father's Day to all of you Savvy Dads!

~ Shelly  

For Trees That Have Been Through Hail and Back...
Some of us saw some pretty severe storms last Saturday night. The golf ball-size hail at our house was a reminder of how harsh Mother Nature can be.  Since many of our severe storms carry hail it's important to think about the implications of hail damage on our trees - especially those with thin bark.  Ned Tisserat, Plant Pathologist for the Cooperative Extension Service at the K-State Research and Extension Horticulture office explained the problem to us several years ago year and the advice is as good today as it was then.  "Hail may strip the bark off trees or provide entrance points for canker and shoot blight diseases.  Thyronectria canker of honeylocust, perennial canker of peach and Sphaeropsis tip blight of pines may increase dramatically following a hail storm.  A fungicide application immediately following a hail storm is sometimes warranted.  However, the application should be made relatively soon after the injury (within a few days).  Unfortunately, in most cases fungicide applications are made well beyond the point they will do any good."

In other words, act quickly to thwart any unnecessary disease that might occur.

When Good Mulch Goes Bad...
There's bound to be a few Savvygardeners out there that had a pile of mulch delivered just before a recent thunderstorm.  If you didn't get your mulch covered be careful. Hardwood mulch can become a real problem if left too long in a damp pile.  Not only does it smell bad once it "sours" it can adversely affect plants that it comes in contact with.  Symptoms look like fertilizer or pesticide burn or water stress.  Damage can be severe enough to actually kill plants - yikes!  Depending on the extent of the injury, plants are often able to recover.  Savvygardeners should water affected plants during hot, dry periods to prevent further stress. 

Mulch that has soured can still be used if it is "mellowed" before application.  Simply spread the mulch in shallow layers and allow it to air out for several days until it no longer smells.  It may also be helpful to water the mulch before application to wash away any toxic substances.

Is That A Volcano In Your Garden?
Speaking of mulch... When mulching try to avoid creating "mulch volcanoes" at the base of your trees.  Unfortunately it is quite common to see trees mulched in this manner - a ring of mulch that gets progressively deeper as it approaches the trunk.  While this is better than no mulch at all, Chris Starbuck at University of Missouri Extension advises us that there are some real problems to consider:

  • When mulch is placed more than about 4 inches deep, roots tend to "migrate" up into the mulch during rainy periods or when the area is irrigated.  Then, when drought conditions occur, the plant may come under severe stress because many of its roots are growing in a material with much less water holding capacity than real soil.
  • The surfaces of the mulch volcanoes can become hydrophobic due to fungal activity and will act as very effective umbrellas, shedding water to the surrounding turf.  This could easily kill a young tree by depriving it of much needed water.
  • Other possible problems with mulch volcanoes are promotion of fungal canker diseases by constant moisture around the lower trunk, stress from poor gas exchange by the cells in the bark and damage from rodents that may take up residence in the volcano.

Source

 


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Minimize Mosquitoes...
One of our least favorite parts of summer is the arrival (or re-emergence) of mosquitoes. This year is no exception. Eliminating sources of standing water is the most effective way of keeping mosquito populations in check but it is sometimes impractical for gardeners.  Here are some good tips for dealing with standing water that can't be removed.

  • Drain or empty the water in dog bowls, wading pools and birdbaths at least once-a-week. This will ensure egg-stage mosquitoes never have time to reach maturity.
  • Irrigate lawns and gardens carefully. Where soils have high clay content, for example, irrigating slowly or irrigating several times lightly will allow the clay to absorb the water, rather than causing puddles and runoff.
  • Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito larvae-eating fish, such as goldfish.
  • Remove in-water plants from the edges of garden ponds to allow fish access to the larvae living and developing there.
  • Using a retail product to control mosquito larvae will be more effective and less costly than trying to control the flying adults.

 

Fruit Dropping, Branch Propping...
Don't be alarmed if tree fruit is dropping this time of year. It's just Mother nature's natural thinning process designed to prevent excessive loads.  Just in case the branch loads remain too heavy you should thin remaining fruit by hand or prop up heavy branches to avoid breakage.  Most fruit should be spaced 6 to 8 inches apart on a branch.

Source

Onward Onions...
Your onions should be growing rapidly and enlarging about now. Onions have a pretty shallow root system and need regular watering and fertilizing to keep growing.  A light application of fertilizer or compost along the row will keep them growing vigorously.  Don't be alarmed if you see a fair amount of the onion developing above the soil line.  This is normal.  When tops begin to get weak and fall over, onion bulbs are about full grown.  At this point, you can break over tops to encourage the necks to dry.  After a few days dig them up to keep bulbs from getting sunburned.  Allow your onions to dry with the tops attached for 1 to 2 weeks before cutting the tops, wiping (not washing) any excess soil from the bulbs, and placing them in a cool, dry location for storage (or eating).

Source

A Cut Above...
The next few months will likely be very taxing for your fescue or bluegrass lawn.  Long, hot and humid days, with little rainfall can make even the greenest lawns wilt.  While it's probably not possible to keep your turf looking perfectly lush and green all summer you can prepare it for the heat by raising the cutting height of your mower.  Fescues and bluegrass should be cut at a height of 3 to 3 inches.  Determine your mowing frequency by cutting no more than one-third of the blade height with each cutting.  This means cutting when it reaches 4 inches or so.

Finally...
"A garden is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man's coat-skirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg, and his whole body to irresistible destruction."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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