This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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September 27, 2006

Seeing Red...
I have started doing a few things to the house to give it "our feel". A friend and I painted the front doors to add a bit of color to the front of the house. Of course I chose red, my favorite color. It really adds the "pop" I was looking for. I have also added a couple of big urns, planted them for fall and now I feel the entrance to our home is a bit warmer. You will be able to catch a glimpse when you look at this week's photos.

I am presently concentrating on an area in front of our house. I guess you might call it a side porch. It has a beautiful wrought iron fence around it so I have decided to dress it up with some fun garden ornaments and fall pots. I love setting a stage and so far this is my favorite. Kevin and I like to sit outside in the evening. Sam Parker, our beagle enjoys it as well, sniffing along the liriope for that ever menacing ground squirrel. It has become a place to retreat to when the house is becoming too noisy or a place to escape to read, rest or to watch what is going on in the neighborhood. I know that we are going to be utilizing this space often. It is fun watching it develop into a spot created for enjoyment. One step at a time. Slowly but surely I am finding my place in my new gardens.

~ Shelly  

Totally Tulips (Part 4)...
It's a sad and sometimes frustrating fact that hybridized tulips "burn-out" every few years or so.  You might be surprised to know that species tulips are not prone to burn-out and will return to the garden every spring for many years.  Now don't be mistaken, species tulips are different than hybrids.  They perform best in rock garden-like locations, require full sun, and well-drained, almost gravelly soils that drain quickly between rains.  

Species tulips are smaller in size than their hybrid relatives.  Most grow just 4 to 12 inches in height and do not like the competition of other plants around them.  Species tulips spread by self sown seeds or stolons.  Many have foliage which is mottled or gray to blue green in color.  They also offer more in the way of bloom.  Many have multiple blooms per stem, some have up to seven!

Interested?  Some species to try include:

  • Tulipa batalinii has soft yellow, fragrant flowers appearing in early spring.  It grows just 5 inches tall.
  • Tulipa clusiana grows 10 to 12 inches tall and blooms in early spring.  The flowers have a white interior with a crimson central star and a pink exterior.  It naturalizes very well.
  • Tulipa greigii comes in pink, yellow, orange, red, buff, cream, and apricot.  It grows 8 to 12 inches tall and blooms in mid-spring.  The blossoms are large - 4 to 5 inches when fully open.
  • Tulipa kaufmanniana grows 6 to 8 inches tall and is available in a wide variety of colors.  It blooms in early spring.
  • Tulipa linifolia grows 4 to 6 inches tall with brilliant red flowers.
  • Tulipa pulchella is a tiny plant growing 3 to 5 inches tall.  It has violet purple fragrant flowers in early spring.
  • Tulipa saxatillis naturalizes readily.  The flowers, lavender-pink with a yellow base, appear mid-spring.  Plants grow 6 to 8 inches tall.
  • Tulipa sylvestris grows 10 to 12 inches tall with fragrant yellow flowers.  Flowers occur 3 to 7 per stem.
  • Tulipa tarda flowers are yellow with white tips.  Plants grow 4 to 6 inches tall.  This tulip is easy to grow!
  • Tulipa turkestanica has cream colored flowers occurring 3 to 5 per stem.  Flowers appear in early spring.  Plants grow 5 to 8 inches tall.

All the species tulips listed above are hardy in zones 4 through 7 with the exception of Tulipa pulchella and Tulipa turkestanica which are hardy in zones 5 to 8.  All should do fine in the greater Kansas City area.

When preparing the site, amend the area several inches wider and deeper than the bulbs will occupy with sand or gravel.  Planting on a gentle slope or in a raised bed assures good drainage.  Plant the bulbs 5 to 8 inches deep.  Species tulips are also suitable for planting in containers.



Moisture Minders...
One problem with fall is that it makes us forgetful.  Even Savvygardeners sometimes cut back on watering too much this time of year.  Your perennials, trees, shrubs, and lawn need that moisture - not like they did in mid-summer but about an inch a week or so.  Watering now and through November helps ensure your plants have a healthy root structure going into our often harsh winters.

Plants That Came In From The Cold...
Once chilly overnight temperatures become the norm you will need to bring your winter houseplants back insideWhen you do, make sure to check them for pests.  Simply rinsing the plants' leaves, and soaking the pots in water for 15 to 20 minutes will drown most soil-dwelling pests.  Also, clean the windows where plants will be placed.  It can dramatically increase available sunlight and make for a much healthier plant!


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Tidy Up Around Fruit Trees...
No one likes worms and other pests in their fruit trees.  A simple clean up now can dramatically reduce the number of pests that return next year.  Just pick up and destroy any fallen fruit, branches, and leaves.  Worms and other pests feed on this fruit and debris, overwinter in the soil, and emerge in the spring to lay eggs and start the cycle all over again.

Garlic Lovers Get Ready!
Garlic needs to be in the ground at least one month before the soil freezes so now through mid-October is the ideal time for planting.  Start by planting the small cloves that are divisions of the large bulb.  The larger the clove, the larger the size of the mature bulb at harvest.  Do not divide the bulb until immediately before planting.  Although some people have had good luck planting the garlic from the grocery store, seedstock from a nursery or via mail-order is recommended.  

Garlic needs a full-sun site with loose soil rich in organic matter.  Adding compost to the bed is usually a good idea.  Plant the cloves (with their pointy sides up) three to five inches apart at a depth of two to three inches.  Add a light layer of mulch.  Allow 18 to 30 inches between rows or plant five inches apart in all directions if you're using raised beds.  Next spring the garlic will push through the soil and mulch.  We'll wait until then to complete the directions through harvest.

Chilly Change In The Air...
This time of year it's not unusual for overnight temperatures to dip into the 40's.  Brrr!  There's no frost on the horizon yet but keep in mind that our first frost is due in mid-October.  Remember that Mother Nature has her own agenda and doesn't have much time for statistics and averages.  Surprise early frosts can be a problem if you're not prepared.

For those of you new to we hope you will enjoy our timely frost alerts.  We send these e-mail alerts to all subscribers when we believe an untimely frost is likely.  Hopefully we are still several weeks from our first frosty scare.  Cross your fingers!

Oh Say Can You Seed...
It's not too late to overseed your lawn - but it's getting close.  You should be able to successfully overseed for the next week to 10 days.  After that your success will depend on how quickly winter arrives.  Two quick tips to increase your success:

  1. Keep your new turf well watered through the rest of fall.
  2. Read our very popular article, Overseeding A Lawn.

The great thing about seeding and overseeding is the low cost and high return.  Grass seed is cheap.  If your seeding is successful you wind up with a priceless lawn next spring.  If it's not 100% successful you haven't lost much.

"Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn."

~ Elizabeth Lawrence

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