This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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September 13, 2006

Seeing Red...
This cooler weather has really motivated me. Today I am planting all of my pots (which have yet to be planted all year) with mums, ornamental millet and pansies. All great for cooler fall days. The colors that mums and pansies can add to the fall landscape are unbeatable. For those of you who know me know that Helen Red is my favorite mum. Red is my favorite color and when Helen Red is in full bloom it is magnificent. Mix it with some of the yellows and oranges and you have the perfect fall combination, one that will take you into November. Isn't it fun to be out in the garden with a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt?

We have put some sod down in a few places in the backyard. We are trying to be diligent about keeping it watered - the key to getting sod off on the right foot. I have to say that it does help to have an irrigation system. That is one of the many things I am thrilled about in the new house. It sure does make watering much easier. I remember dragging those hoses around. UGH! What a full-time job that was. If you have recently planted seed remember to keep it moist. Keeping it moist (not soaked) will help with the germination process. I would recommend once in the morning and evening. Hopefully your new seed will be up and thriving within 7-14 days. New life to the lawn after a very stressful summer.

~ Shelly  

Totally Tulips (Part 2)
One of the best ways to keep your spring garden flowering is by planting tulip bulbs that bloom at different times.  Last week we recommended some tulip varieties that would bloom toward the early part of spring.  This week we focus on those that will bloom after the early bloomers but just before the late bloomers.  Careful planning will pay off next spring with a continuously blooming tulip garden.

  • Darwin Hybrid Tulips are highly prized for their large, brilliant flowers.  Flowers are available in shades of red, pink, orange, and yellow.  Blooms are borne on strong stems which are up to 30 inches tall.  Darwin hybrid tulips often bloom well for several years, making them one of the better perennial tulips.
  • Triumph Tulips produce cup-shaped flowers on strong, medium-length stems.  Average plant height is 10 to 16 inches.  This is the largest class of tulips and offers the widest range of flower colors.  Triumph tulips are excellent for forcing.
  • Parrot Tulips have deeply feathered, curled, or twisted petals.  Flowers may be single or multi-colored.  Many varieties have a green spot at the base of their petals.  Parrot tulips are sensitive to poor weather and should be planted in a protected spot.

Next week, the late bloomers...



Mulch Ado About Trees...
Fall is a great time to plant a tree.  Keeping it alive is an all-season affair.  Mulching is so important for new trees but it's not as simple as dumping a bag of wood chips at the base of a tree.  Here are some tips to help you avoid the most common mistakes: 

  • Don't pile mulch around the trunk.  This keeps the trunk wet, which can allow diseases and insects to invade.  Keep the mulch at least 6 inches from the trunk.
  • Don't put on too little or too much.  A 1-inch-deep layer doesn't do the job.  A settled depth of 3 to 5 inches gives you the full benefits of mulch, including good weed control.  Mulch depths of a foot or two are excessive and may smother roots.
  • Don't apply sour-smelling mulch.  If it smells like a litter box it's probably been stored on a waterlogged site.  The ammonia that builds in this situation can harm your tree.  Sour mulch is a rare occurrence, but your nose will give you a clear warning of it.
  • Don't use freshly chipped chips.  While the chance of disease transmission is small it's easy to go zero-risk by aging chips for six weeks or more before using them around your trees.


Continue Mosquito Control...
In case you haven't noticed, mosquitoes continue to be present in large numbers and will continue to pose a threat right up until our first hard frost. Limiting their breeding area is one of the most effective ways to keep their numbers in check.  Mosquitoes can breed in very small amounts of standing water, sometimes even in water collected on a plastic bag or under a small saucer under a plant. Change water in birdbaths and pets water dishes regularly - at least twice a week.

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Planting Perennials Properly...
Fall is here and that means we're planting perennials at our house.  By planting perennials now Savvygardeners will benefit from the plant establishing a strong root structure during the autumn months.  This in turn leads to a bigger, healthier plant next spring.

Perennials are generally sold in pots or bare-root. Here are the steps to follow when planting a bare root perennial: 

  1. Remove the plant from its package, and carefully remove all loose packing material (peat moss and sawdust are commonly used). 
  2. Soak the roots in a bucket of water for 5 to 10 minutes. 
  3. Examine the root system, and trim away any rotted, moldy, broken or elongated roots with a sharp knife or your pruning shears. 
  4. Dig a hole deep and wide enough to allow the roots to fan out from the crown at about 45 angle.  It sometimes helps to make a cone-shaped mound of soil in the bottom of the hole and spread the roots around it.  Remember, the crown of most perennials should be roughly level with the surrounding ground. 
  5. Cover the roots with soil and press down firmly.  Make sure all the roots especially those under the crown are in contact with soil. 
  6. Water the plant well and add a layer of mulch.


Apple Storage...
Last week we told readers when to pick apples. This week we'll share with you how long you can store them.  Not surprisingly some cultivars can be stored longer than others.
Some can be stored for as long as eight months and still be tasty and crispy.  The approximate length of time of those that keep well under refrigerated conditions follows:

Cultivar Days   Cultivar Days
Wealthy 60 Braeburn 180
Paulared 90 Idared 200
Gala 120 Rome Beauty 220
Jonathan 120 Winesap 220
Grimes Golden 120 Fuji 240
Golden Delicious 150 Granny Smith 240
Empire 150 Arkansas Black 240
Delicious 160    

For best results:

  • Store only the best quality
  • Pick as they are first maturing
  • Avoid skin breaks, disease or insect damage, and bruises on individual fruit.
  • Store in a plastic bag to help retain moisture in the apples. The bag should have a few small holes for air exchange. The bags of apples may be stored in boxes to prevent bruising if they must be stacked or moved from time to time.
  • Refrigerate at about 35 F.
  • Sort about every 30 to 40 days to remove fruit that may be beginning to rot.


Hummingbird Attractors...
We got lots of great comments on the two hummingbirds that have made our front porch their new hangout.  For those of you looking for plants that are likely to attract hummingbirds consider these:

Trumpet Vine Catalpa Coralberry
Weigela Nicotiana Petunia
Salvia Hollyhock Columbine
Delphinium Foxglove Gladiolus
Daylily Hibiscus Liatris
Tiger Lily Penstemon Phlox
Sweet William Snap Dragon Larkspur

A Dandy Time to Stop Dandelions...
So, all summer long you've been battling a few (or a few dozen) dandelions for control of your lawn.  Well, they say the best way to control dandelions and other broad-leaf weeds is by maintaining a lush, healthy turf.  But you've still got to knock out those pesky weeds that just won't go away and fall is a great time to do it.  Options are many but generally the most effective controls result with a liquid broadleaf weed herbicide sprayed under these conditions:

  • The weeds are actively growing.
  • Soil moisture is plentiful (never in drought).
  • Air temperatures are between 60 and 75 F (never above 80 degrees).
  • Wind speeds are below 5 mph.
  • The lawn will not receive moisture through rain or irrigation for at least 24 hours.
  • The lawn will not be mowed for several days before or after the application.
  • The person doing the applying reads and follows herbicide label instructions carefully.

"When we learn to call flowers by name we take the first step toward a real intimacy with them."

~ Mrs. William Starr Dana

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