This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

Missouri Organic Mulch, Compost, Bulk Soil

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July 26, 2006

Ready For Change...
It's hard to believe that it is July 26th and August is quickly approaching. We are busy readying the kids for school. Physicals, dental appointments, haircuts and the purchasing of school supplies. The first day of school is August 17th which is just a short three weeks away. Where does time go? The kids seem to have mixed emotions about whether or not they are ready to return to a daily schedule. I am certain about one thing - they are all going to have to adjust to a new sleeping schedule. There have been several overnighters that have been all-nighters and even the boys are starting to sleep in later and later every day. It should be an interesting first few weeks of school.

I will be glad once the weather starts to cool down. I am anxious to start rearranging the gardens to my liking. I have several ideas and I am ready to start implementing some of them. Several readers have e-mailed me about the potting shed I am contemplating so I wanted to share the website that gave me a few ideas. You can order a whole shed or just the plans. They have some beautiful sheds. My sister-in-law ordered one and the craftsmanship is amazing. A good place for ideas as well.

I am hoping that we will see some rain soon. I think we got a couple of drops this morning. Not enough to get the driveway wet. Stay cool and keep everything watered. I know it is hard this time of year. It is hard to think of anything but cooler temperatures.

~ Shelly  

Bitter Cucumbers?
A bitter taste in cucumbers is the result of stress that can be caused by a number of factors, including heredity, moisture, temperature, soil characteristics and disease. Most often this occurs during the hot part of the summer or later in the growing season.

Two compounds, cucurbitacins B and C, give rise to the bitter taste. Though often only the stem end is affected, at times the entire fruit is bitter. Also, most of the bitter taste is found in and just under the skin. Bitter fruit is not the result of cucumbers cross-pollinating with squash or melons. These plants cannot cross-pollinate with one another.

Often newer varieties are less likely to become bitter than older ones. Proper cultural care is also often helpful. Make sure your plants have the following:

  • Well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5.
  • Plenty of organic matter also helps.
  • Mulch helps conserve moisture and keep roots cool during hot, dry weather.
  • Adequate water especially during the fruiting season.
  • Disease and insect control.


Revitalize Herbs...
If your basil and thyme look like they need an extreme makeover you can revitalize them by cutting them back severely. This will stimulate a clean new flush of growth, free of any insect and disease damage incurred since spring.

Thump Goes The Melon...
Watermelon growers probably have some pretty big fruit by now.  You don't want to harvest your melons too early!  Just check for these tell-tale indicators of ripeness: 

  • The underside ground spot turns from whitish to creamy yellow.
  • The tendril closest to the melon turns brown and shrivels.
  • The rind loses its gloss and appears dull.
  • The melon produces a dull thud rather than a ringing sound when thumped.


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The Cutting Gardener...
When gardens are blooming the way they have been lately it's a shame not to spread the beauty around.  How?  By bringing some of it inside! Before you try it yourself there are some procedures to follow if you really want to do it right:

  • Start when flower stems are full of water - either early morning (6 to 8 AM) or late evening (7 to 9 PM).
  • Carry a clean bucket filled with very warm (100 to 120 F) water.
  • Always use sharp, very clean scissors or pruners when cutting. 
  • Immediately place any cut flowers in the bucket of warm water.
  • When you bring the flowers in, re-cut each flower under water.  This pulls water into the stems more quickly.  Flowers that are not re-cut immediately after picking can lose up to 60% of their vase life.
  • Place the bucket of re-cut flowers in a cool area, such as the basement and allow them to hydrate or harden for at least one hour (although overnight is best).
  • Arrange, display, enjoy!


You Say Cicada, I Say...
If you're brave enough to venture out in the evening heat these days your ears will no doubt be overwhelmed by the din of cicadas.  Cicadas leave lots of people puzzled so we dug up some dirt on these noisy critters:

  • The dog-day cicada is what we hear this year and virtually every year.  
  • It is related to the 17-year cicada (last seen in K.C. in 1998) and is usually found on oaks, maples, and other mature, well-established trees. 
  • Dog-day cicadas appear during the long, summer days of July and August hence their nick-name. 
  • They have two to five-year life cycles but their broods overlap and therefore seemingly appear every summer. 
  • Dog-day cicadas are larger than 17-year cicadas and have brown-black bodies with whitish highlights and green wing margins. 
  • Dog-day cicadas do not ordinarily cause much damage though they (and the shells they leave behind) are a bit unattractive.
  • The 17-year cicada will not be back in our area until 2015 but dog-day cicadas are likely every summer.

Bulbs That Bloom In Autumn...
The savviest of Savvygardeners know that there are a number of autumn-blooming bulbs that really perk up the fall garden and landscape.  Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) also known as meadow saffron, mysteria, or naked boys produces pink to lavender crocus-like flowers in the fall and there is no foliage present when the plants are in bloom.  Dark green leaves will emerge in the spring, remain until summer, then turn yellow and die to the ground.  After which, the flowers magically appear in the fall again.

Colchicums should be planted immediately after purchase or delivery in August or September or they will start to bloom in their packaging.  Plant the corms in clumps, 2-3 inches deep in well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade.  Pretty!

Too Tall Turf?
If you've been away on vacation and your lawn is extra tall be careful about cutting too much at once.  As a rule you should cut no more than one-third of the grass height at a time. If necessary, try setting your mower height to the highest setting for a first cutting.  Then wait two-three days and cut again at a reduced height.

"Along the river's summer walk
The withered tufts of asters nod;
And trembles on its arid stalk
The hoar plume of the golden-rod."

~ John Greeenleaf Whittier

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