This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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August 16, 2006

Feelin' Good...
Haven't the last couple of days just been great? Mild temperatures, low humidity and even some cloud cover. I actually was able to spend some time outside in my own gardens doing some general clean up and cutting back. Thanks for the fun emails about me and the purchase of my new hedge trimmer. I used it and absolutely had a blast! Ok, maybe a blast is a little over the top but it was fun. I would trim a bit, step back, trim a bit more
(photos). I felt like an artist. Of course that's funny in itself considering drawing stick-people is a challenge for me. I guess it is a good thing I can garden.

We are starting to make a few outdoor changes to the house. For the most part we have completed settling in and I am just champing at the bit to get outside. I am really cutting things back. There is a lot of English ivy and euyonomous that desperately need to be cut back and killed off. It is growing out of control and I am not an out of control type gardener. So for now that is one of my goals - to prepare the beds for planting bulbs and shrubs. Lots to do but I am excited nonetheless.

~ Shelly  

Honk If You Have Hornworms...
Tomato hornworms are serious garden pests. They like to eat the leaves of tomato plants and will do so completely to the mid-rib of the leaf.  Fortunately they can be dealt with without drenching the entire plant in pesticide.  The trick is early detection and removal.  While it's hard to see a green caterpillar on a green leaf the black droppings from the caterpillar are a bit more obvious.  When you see the droppings look closely for the caterpillar and remove it immediately.

Best Fescues...
Each year K-State Extension rates tall fescue varieties for color, green-up, quality and texture. They have 160 different cultivars of tall fescue in their Tall Fescue Cultivar Trial near Wichita. Quality ratings are taken once a month from March through October. (The old standby K-31 consistently rates at the bottom by the way.) 

The 20 highest-rated named cultivars from last year's trials were:

Justice Riverside Matador Millennium
Apache III Padre Avenger 2nd Millennium
Wolfpack Regiment II Inferno Trooper
BE1 Scorpion Focus SR8550
Plantation Coshise III Gremlin Finelawn Elite

Each of these varieties averaged a rating of at least 5.0 on a scale of 0 to 9, with 9 being optimum quality. There were no statistically different ratings for any of these cultivars. At the end of the summer, Avenger, Finelawn Elite and Inferno had the finest texture. Keep in mind that mixes of several varieties may allow you to take advantage of differing strengths. It is not necessary for mixes to contain only the varieties mentioned above.

They're Not Locusts...
It's that time of year when the din of the singing cicadas makes it nearly impossible to hold a conversation outdoors. It's also that time of year that people invariably refer to these noisy insects as "locusts".  Trust us, they are not locusts.  Locusts are actually a type of grasshopper and have some significant traits that, fortunately, we do not experience with cicadas:

  • Locusts tend to travel in swarms.  Fifteen to thirty million adult locusts inhabit each square mile of a swarm.
  • Each locust weighs less than one tenth of an ounce, but eats its weight in food each day. In a single day, one ton of locusts, a very small part of a swarm, consumes enough food for 2,500 people. 

Cicadas by contrast feed only during the underground portion of their life cycle.  They feed on tree roots and do not consume enough to harm the host plant.


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Still Time To Divide Iris...
Late summer is ideal for dividing, moving and planting iris. The old foliage wilting from the summerís heat can be trimmed back at least halfway. Trimming also helps when dividing iris to prevent moisture loss while the plants get established.  Follow these simple steps to divide your iris plants:

  • Dig Iris with a potato fork, being careful not to damage the rhizome.
  • With a sterile knife, cut the rhizome vertically. Each division should be approximately 2 inches long with 2-3 fans.
  • Dig a shallow hole mounded in the middle and spread the roots around the mound.
  • Set the plant with fans facing to the outside of the garden to make room for expanded growth.
  • Fill the hole with soil, being careful to leave rhizomes partially exposed, and water well.
  • Water the newly planted iris regularly if the weather is hot and dry being careful to avoid overwatering.


Battling Bagworms...
Bagworms, caterpillars that weave a small silky bag with leaf and stick pieces attached, have been actively feeding for some time now. By August, the bags can be over an inch long and can do considerable damage in a short time. They can strip a shrub or small tree completely of foliage in what seems like a couple of days. Pick the bags off as soon as you notice them or treat them with a spray containing spinosad. Bags will eventually reach 2 inches and if left to mature, male moths emerge from the bag later in the season, mating with females who never leave their bag. Each female can lay up to a thousand eggs, which remain in the bag until they hatch in the spring. It is a very good idea to remove and destroy bags any time of the year.


Look Out For Lacebugs...
Continue to monitor azalea, pyracantha and Japanese andromeda for the presence of lacebugs. Populations of these insects can explode during the summer months, and left unchecked, may send susceptible plants into a downward spiral of decline. Plantings in full sun always fare worse, so check these most often. If you find more than two or three lacebugs per leaf, prepare an application of insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. Be sure to spray the entire plant upper and lower leaf surfaces for best control.


Oh Say Can You Seed?
Yes you can!  The best time to start new cool-season grass seed is late summer/early fall.  Considering the trend toward lower-than-average temperatures this summer you may want to get started soon.  Seeding this time of year takes advantage of warm weather for proper seed germination while allowing the new turf to thrive as the temperatures cool into fall.

"It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato."

~ Lewis Grizzard

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