This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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September 6, 2006

Laboring On Labor Day...
I certainly know the true meaning of Labor Day. Kevin and I were out all weekend laboring in the yard. We had eight junipers taken down, removed water sprouts from trees that we could reach, weeded, trimmed and raked. It was a beautiful weekend and we were both glad we had the opportunity to spend it doing something that we really enjoy. Needless to say we were exhausted once the weekend was over but were very pleased by all of our efforts. I have said it a million times... there is nothing more satisfying than making the place you live more beautiful.

I think the front porch is making a comeback. When we lived at our old house our friends across the street had a lovely front porch. We would often find ourselves over there kind of just hanging out. It became a gathering place for watching kids play or catching up with other neighbors. I have decided that since this house has a side-front porch that I am really going to use it as a place for just sitting. It is not very big so I will have to be clever with the way I use my space. I will keep you updated with pictures as I transition the space. Kevin and I have found ourselves sitting out there in the evenings. We have two humming birds that have taken up residence in our area. They are enjoying the sugar water we have put out for them and we are enjoying their company. They are truly amazing to watch. Catch Kevin's pictures.

~ Shelly  

Totally Tulips (Part I)...
While there are quite a few weeks before you have to plant them, tulips should be purchased soon.  Wait too long and the interesting ones will be gone from the store shelves!  To help you out we publish this four-part series each year at this time.

One of the best ways to keep your spring garden blooming is by planting bulbs that bloom at different times.  The possibilities are endless.  In fact you can plant only tulips if you like and still have staged blooms.  This week we focus on some of the earlier blooming tulips.  Look for these in your favorite catalogs and at local retailers:

  • Single Early Tulips are among the earliest tulips to bloom.  The flowers, available in a wide range of colors, are produced on strong, 10 to 18-inch-long stems.  The flowers of several varieties have a sweet fragrance.  Single early tulips are excellent for rock gardens, beds, and forcing.
  • Double Early Tulips produce semi-double to double, peony-like flowers.  The flowers, measuring up to 4 inches in diameter, are borne on strong, short stems.  The color range of double early tulips is smaller than for most other tulip classes.
  • Greigii Tulips are noted for their brightly-colored flowers and purple striped or mottled foliage.  Plant height varies from 8 to 12 inches.  Because of their short stature, Greigii tulips are excellent choices for borders or rock gardens.
  • Kaufmanniana Tulips are long-lived perennial tulips.  In sunlight, the flowers open fully.  The open flowers resemble a star or water lily.  Flower colors include white, yellow, pink, and intermediary colors.  The foliage is bluish green or chocolate brown striped.  Kaufmanniana tulips are small plants with an average height of 4 to 8 inches.  Their compact size makes them good choices for border edges and rock gardens.
  • Fosteriana Tulips produce some of the largest flowers of the genus.  They also perennialize well.  'Red Emperor' is a widely grown variety in this class.  Fosteriana tulips are sometimes referred to as emperor tulips.
  • Species Tulips include wild species, horticultural varieties, and hybrids.  Most are early blooming, short-statured plants.  Species tulips are available in a wide array of colors.  They perennialize well and are excellent plants for rock and heirloom gardens.

Next week, the "middle" bloomers...


Household Hazardous Waste...
Fall clean-up of your garage or other work areas may turn up containers of old pesticides, herbicides, and other lawn and garden chemicals.  These items are considered household hazardous wastes and should not be thrown in the trash.  Instead, Savvygardeners should dispose of them safely through their local government.  For more information simply click on the appropriate local government link below:

The Sunflower Shake...
You don't have to be a Kansas Savvygardener to appreciate the beauty of sunflowers.  For those of you who want to harvest your sunflower seeds and don't know when they're ready just look for these tell-tale signs:

  • The flower's head is droopy and faces the ground.
  • Most of the petals have fallen off.
  • The birds are starting to enjoy the seeds.

Gently shake the head of the flower and the seeds will fall off.  Store them in a nice dry place for planting next spring!


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When To Pick Apples...
Just because apples are falling from the tree, doesn't mean they are ripe enough for good eating. Here are some guides to help you decide when to pick your apples.

  • Color change: As apples mature, the skin color in areas of the stem and the calyx basin at the bottom of the apple turns from an immature green to a light-yellow color. Some apples will develop a red skin color before they are ripe, so this is not a reliable indication of maturity.
  • Flavor: This is a good guide if you are familiar with the apples you have and know how they should taste. Even if you do not know the characteristic flavor of the kind of apple you have, you can still sample slices of a few apples and decide if they have a sweet flavor. If they are not ready to harvest, they will taste starchy or immature.
  • Flesh color: As apples mature and starches change to sugars, the flesh changes from very light green to white. When you cut a thin slice and hold it up to the light you can see the difference.
  • Days from bloom: The number of days from bloom is a reliable guide for general maturity time, but weather conditions will have some influence. Some kinds of apples and approximate days from bloom to maturity are Jonathan, 135, Delicious, 145, Golden Delicious, 145, and Winesap, 155 days.
  • Seed color: The seeds of most apples change from light green to brown as the fruit ripens. This indicator should be combined with other changes since it is not absolute. The flavor of the apples, the change in color of the stem and calyx basins and flesh color are important in deciding if apples are ready to harvest.


Slime Mold On Turf...
Slime molds are primitive organisms that are common on turf and mulch. Slime molds are not fungi and are no longer classified as such. They belong to the Kingdom Protista rather than Kingdom Fungi. On turf, you might often see large numbers of small black, gray, white or purple fruiting structures, called sporangia on leaf blades during cool and humid weather throughout spring, summer and fall. Affected areas are often several inches to 1 foot in diameter. During wet weather, the fruiting structures may appear slimy. As the structures dry out in hot weather, they become ash gray, and break up easily when touched. Homeowners often are concerned that this is a disease organism that will kill the grass, but slime mold feeds on bacteria, other fungi and dead organic matter. It simply uses the turf as a structure on which to grow. However, slime mold can damage turf by completely covering leaf blades and interfering with photosynthesis. Chemical control of slime molds is not necessary. Use a broom or a heavy spray of water to dislodge the mold.


Squash Harvest Hints...
Don't be too hasty in harvesting all your winter squash!  For longer keeping let winter squash stay on the vines as long as possible.  Wait until the vines die back or there is danger of frost.  Check by pressing with your thumbnail, if the skin is easily broken they are not fully matured and may not keep well.  

When you harvest leave two to three inches of stem on the squash.  Allow them to cure in a warm, dry, well-ventilated place for a couple of weeks before placing them in storage.  Also, never wash your squash until just before using and never carry squash or pumpkins by the stem.


Fertilizer Figures...
Savvygardeners with cool-season grasses (bluegrass, fescue, and/or ryegrass) should plan on three applications of fertilizer each year - one in spring and two in fall.  Fall is the most important time to fertilize as it really encourages strong root growth resulting in healthier growth next spring.  September is a great month for the first fall application followed by another in November.

You're going to need about 1 to 1.5 pounds of Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn.  That's the amount of actual Nitrogen, not fertilizer product.  The amount of actual nitrogen in a fertilizer product is indicated by the first digit of the N-P-K number on the label of a fertilizer bag.  The N-P-K number indicates percentages by weight of the nutrients nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K).  For example, a bag with a N-P-K of 20-4-4 has 20 percent nitrogen.  Therefore it will take 5 pounds of this fertilizer to provide 1 pound of actual nitrogen.

"When clouds appear like Rocks and Tower,
The Earth's refreshed by frequent Showers."

~ John Claridge

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