This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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Seeds Indoors
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~ Seed Starting Tomatoes


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~ Summer-Flowering Bulb Care
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~ 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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July 12, 2006

Tree Decorations...
Well it is official. We have been TP'd for the first time. Toilet paper was strewn through the trees and all around our house Monday evening. We are pretty sure it was some friends (or foes) of Morgan, our teenage daughter. I remember those days. Although it seems so long ago there was nothing funnier than t-ping one of your friends' houses. Then of course there is the clean-up. Spending hours upon hours trying to get that wet paper out of the trees. It is a chore and I have to say I hope it doesn't happen again soon.

I wish I could talk about all of the great things I am doing to my new gardens but as of yet nothing is happening. I have been too busy inside trying to unpack all of those boxes. Ugh! What a job that is! I would much rather be in the garden. I have been putting thoughts to paper and have decided on one thing. I would like to have a potting shed built. I have looked at some designs and Kevin and I have found a few we like. We are not going to jump into anything too hastily. It takes time and good design to come up with something that will look like it belongs and has always been a part of our house.

The rainfall has been plentiful - a good thing considering it is mid-July. So far we have been pretty lucky. In years past there have not been those days of soaking rains but rather the long, hot days where the ground ached for a good shower. It sounds as if we better brace ourselves for some good old-fashion hot weather. It is July and August is not too far away. Soon Fall will be here and we'll be planting pansies and mums and grateful to be throwing on a sweatshirt and a comfortable pair of jeans. Oh yes, I love that time of the year and will be relieved once the burning days of summer have past.

~ Shelly  

Invigorating Irises...
To promote growth, vigor and optimum flowering, iris clumps may be raised and divided every three years or so.  Dig up the rhizomes carefully to avoid damage to rhizomes and their roots.  Examine them for the presence of worm-like insects called iris borers, which may seriously damage or destroy the plant.  If they are found, remove them, cut out the affected tissue and dust with a garden insecticide, such as Sevin, before replanting.  Select sound rhizomes with two or more growing points.  Rhizomes may be cut apart with a sharp knife, or snapped apart by hand.  Be sure to preserve as many rhizome roots as possible.  The best time to divide iris is in mid-summer while the plants are dormant.  Late July through mid August is preferred.


Trees Shedding Bark...
Trees naturally shed bark as they grow. The amount of bark shed varies significantly from one year to the next and is usually not noticeable. But some trees, such as sycamore, London Planetree and silver maple, shed bark in large patches or strips. During a year with heavy shedding homeowners may become concerned that the tree is sick or dying. Such usually is not the case. Sycamore and London Planetree normally show a bright green color on the branches when the bark first falls off but soon return to normal. Maple reveals an orange color after shedding but it, too, soon returns to normal. There is nothing wrong with the tree as long as the shedding bark simply reveals underlying bark rather than bare wood.


When Is A Tomato Ripe?
Early July starts tomato ripening time in Kansas City. We’ve all heard of ‘vine ripe’ flavor but does a tomato have to remain on the vine until it is completely ripe? The answer is no. When a tomato reaches a full size and the fruit becomes a pale green, it begins the ripening process which is regulated by an internal gas produced within the fruit called ethylene. After the tomato reaches a stage when it about ˝ green and ˝ pink (called the ‘breaker stage’), a layer of cells forms across the stem of the tomato- sealing it from the main vine. At this point there is nothing moving from the plant into the fruit. At this stage the tomato can be harvested and ripened off the vine with no loss of flavor, quality or nutrition.

Red pigments in tomatoes don’t form above 95° F so tomatoes ripened in extreme heat will have a orange-red color. Tomatoes held at cooler temperatures will ripen slower. You can speed up or slow down the ripening process by raising the temperature (to an optimum of 85° F) or lowering the temperature (to a minimum of 50° F). Tomatoes develop their optimum flavor, nutrition, and color when the tomato is in the full red ripe stage but this doesn’t have to occur on the plant!



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When To Pick A Pepper...
Depending on what variety of bell pepper you are growing and what color you want it to be you have different guidelines to follow for the timing of your harvest.  Green bell varieties are usually picked when they are fully grown and mature - 3 to 4 inches long, firm and green.  Colored bell peppers start out green but should be left on the plant until they develop full flavor and ripen fully to red, yellow, orange or brown.

Fall Crops Begin Now...
A fall harvest of cabbage, vine crops, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts means setting transplants in late July.  For lettuce, radish, carrots, beets, turnips, kale, and spinach, you should sow seeds in late July to early August.

Brussels sprouts are especially good fall crops as their flavor is enhanced by a mild frost.  They are hungry little guys so make monthly applications of 5-10-10 fertilizer at a rate of ˝ cup per square yard from the time the plants are 4 inches tall through harvest.

Shady Characters...
Looking for a good, low exertion chore for the hot weather?  Try inspecting your shade trees and the grass below them.  They may be getting so full of branches that not enough sunlight filters through to your grass.  If your grass is just not making it under a particular tree you can stand in its shade and make some notes for future pruning.  You'd be surprised how well grass will respond to even a moderate amount of increased sunlight.

"Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it."

~ Russell Baker

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