This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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August 23, 2006

Home For The Weekend...
We visited McPherson Kansas this past weekend for a family reunion. It was fun to see cousins I haven't seen in awhile and share stories of growing up. The weather was cool and rainy. A nice change. I was so chilly in the evening that I had to put on a sweatshirt. My parents were glad to see some rain. I think they only received about a inch but were thrilled nonetheless. They own seven acres of land and their house is out in the wide open. The wind seems to be blowing to some extent every day so with the extreme heat they have experienced it has made keeping up with the watering pretty difficult. Sounds like a story we are all to familiar with.

It was fun watching our youngest son Jake go out to the garden with grandpa to pick some tomatoes and cucumbers (photos). Dad had plenty to send home and I always kid him about starting his own little vegetable stand. He also grows watermelon and cantaloupe that are delicious. I often wish I had enough space to grow vegetables. I wonder if I would have the patience. Growing vegetables and planting flowers are very different to me. For now I will continue to plant flowers because there is nothing more satisfying than walking outside and looking at their beauty.

~ Shelly  

Heirloom Tomato Seeds...
Heirloom Tomatoes have been increasing in popularity recently.  Saving seeds from these oldies-but-goodies is a great idea but maybe not as simple as you think.  First of all you need to take some precautions to prevent cross-pollination from other tomato varieties nearby or the seeds may not produce the tomato you wanted. If you grow more than one variety of tomato, they should be planted at least 20-25 feet apart. In addition, a tall barrier crop (corn, pole beans, fruit trees, etc), or a continuous pollen-producing crop (squash) should be planted between varieties to distract the bees. These precautions will prevent most wind caused cross-pollination, and cause bees to visit only one tomato variety at a time before returning to the hive to clean off their collected pollen.

Save the seeds from healthy plants with the best fruit quality. Pick the fruit when ripe, scoop out seeds and pulp into a bowl with a little water then leave to ferment for 4 days (no longer or some heirlooms will begin to sprout). Separate out seed from pulp, rinse the seeds, then dry them on paper towels or a screen in a warm, dry place with good air circulation (try outdoors on warm summer or fall days). After 5-7 days, place seeds in airtight containers (plastic film canisters are good) and store indoors in a dark, cool, dry place. If properly stored, your seeds should remain viable for 3-5 years.


Colorful Closers...
Mums are a gardener's best friend in the fall.  As the latest blooming flowers they provide color and beauty to a garden that has otherwise been worn out for the season. 

When choosing mums from your local retailer buy healthy looking plants that have been taken care of - no broken stems, wilted leaves, etc...  Plants with existing blooms will be limited in their ability to provide much more flowering.  Those with buds about to bloom will provide you with flowers into the fall.  We usually buy several plants in bloom for immediate gratification and quite a few more that we expect to bloom over the coming weeks.  What a great exclamation point at the end of the season!

Tater Tidbits...
If you're harvesting potatoes remember that they will continue to grow as long as the tops are green.  So dig only as many as you need for immediate use.  The ones left in the ground will actually keep better there than in your home.


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Oak Wilt Worries...
This time of year always seems to bring lots of questions regarding "oak wilt"This troubling tree disease can really devastate our beautiful oak trees, but thankfully it's actually quite rare In case you've got an oak and are worried about oak wilt we've unearthed an excellent resource published by the USDA Forest Service.  How to Identify, Prevent, and Control Oak Wilt can be found  here...

Making The Cut...
When your plants fall victim to disease one of the first courses of action is the removal of the diseased portions.  Careful!  The same pruners that you use to cut away diseased foliage can then transfer the disease to otherwise healthy plants.  It is generally recommended that a one in ten solution of bleach and water be used to disinfect pruners.  Rather than keep a bucket of solution nearby try mixing the solution in a small spray bottle.  Carry it with you and spray your pruners after each cut.

Herb Helpers...
Keep your basil, parsley, mint, and sage, producing by pinching out the seed pods. Herbs can be used fresh, frozen, or dried. Wait until the dew has dried to cut a few stems, tie a string around this little bouquet, and hang in a cool, dry place until completely dry. Crumble and place in a jar for use during the winter.


Wake-Up Sleepy Turf...
If all or parts of your cool season grass have gone dormant this summer you should prepare for a fall comeback now by starting a deep watering program.  Make sure your lawn gets a morning soak twice a week and you will be rewarded with stronger, more lush growth later this fall.

"Gardeners and couturiers possess many of the same talents: imagination, knowledge, and industry. Both know which colors shock or coordinate, which textures rasp or soothe, and both see fashions change - but they never forget that the concept of beauty is timeless."

~ Rosemary Verey

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