This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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~ Houseplant Care
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Seeds Indoors
~ Seed Starting Indoors
~ Vegetable Garden Calendar
~ Seed Starting Tomatoes


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~ When to Divide Perennials
~ Dividing Spring Blooming Perennials
~ Forcing Bulbs Indoors
~ Overseeding A Lawn
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~ Stump Removal Options for the Homeowner
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October 25, 2006

Color Me Red...
Just one step outside and you are sure to notice the signs of fall. Shall we begin with the colors? Reds, oranges, yellows and browns. What an unbelievable combination! Burning bush is a shrub that I am particularly fond of this time of the year. Red is my favorite color so when I find one that is planted in full sun there really is nothing quite like it. Its flaming foliage is unmistakable. Now if you were to ask me as a gardener whether or not to plant one I would say "do it". However, before planting shrubs in your garden don't forget to ask yourself a couple of key questions. "What role is it playing in the landscape"? Are you creating a hedge, or are you looking for an accent piece? Those two questions will guide you in making the right choice not only for shrubs but with most anything you choose for your garden.

It looks as if we will be receiving some more rain later tonight and into tomorrow. Wasn't last Saturday horrible? Rainy, cold and just plain nasty. I don't think we left the house all day. It's funny how days like that are needed every now and then. We often are so busy that having everyone in the house at once is pretty uncommon. So in that respect it was nice. We played board games, read books and rented movies. What turned out to be such a horrible day outside turned into a great day inside.

Happy Halloween!

~ Shelly  

Insect Invaders...
When cool night temperatures signal that its time to bring houseplants indoors a host of insects and their relatives may try to come indoors with them.  Once inside they can undergo a population explosion and spread from the plant they came in on to others in your home.  Other pests such as millipedes, centipedes, sowbugs and pillbugs, spiders, and earwigs may not harm plants or other materials, but their presence indoors makes them household nuisances.  

Repotting your plants in fresh soil will eliminate many of these invaders.  The others can be controlled mechanically - by broom and dustpan, vacuum cleaner, flyswatter or sole of shoe applied firmly to floor with the pest sandwiched between the flat surfaces.  The best approach is to inspect plant pots closely before bringing them inside.  Shake or tap pots vigorously to disturb beetles, millipedes, spiders and other creatures and encourage them to leave their hiding places.  If you find scale insects, mealybugs, aphids or other plant-destructive pests, use a hard stream of water or insecticidal soap to remove them.  Quarantine these plants from other uninfested indoor plants and observe them closely.  Treat any new outbreaks as they occur and discard any plants that are severely infested.


Press The Squash...
When you harvest your winter squash (Acorn or Butternut) check for maturity with your thumbnail.  When pressed with your nail the rind of a ripe squash will not be punctured.  To harvest the squash, cut the stem, dont break it off.  The cut stems will dry and seal the squash so it will last for months in storage.  It is no exaggeration to say the squash you harvest in October and store in a dry place at around 50 to 55 F. can still be good to eat in April of next year.


Early Mulchers Beware...
Did you know that mulches applied too early can do more harm than good?   Think about it.  The primary function of mulch is to keep soil temperatures constant and prevent frost heaving, not to keep it warm.  It is best not to apply protective mulch until the soil temperature has reached about 35
- hopefully at least a month from now!


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Harvesting Sweet Potatoes...
Sweet potatoes need to be harvested before the roots are exposed to periods of cold weather, so usually harvest begins about the time of the first fall freeze. Freshly dug sweet potato roots are fairly tender, so the skin can be easily damaged. A process called curing solves this. Curing involves putting the roots in a warm, humid location for 5 to 10 days immediately after digging. A location about 85
to 90F works best. A small area heated by a space heater and misting the area several times a day is ideal.

The curing process heals over scratches in the skin but also prompts another important reaction - converting starches in the roots to sugar. This improves the texture and flavor of the roots resulting in the moist, sweet flesh we associate with quality sweet potatoes. Always store sweet potatoes in locations where temperatures will be above 55F. Cold temperature storage causes injury that can be irreversible, shortening storage life, turning the inside of the roots dark, giving them a strange alcoholic flavor, and causing premature rotting.


Leveling The Lawn...
Uneven lawns can really wreak havoc when you're mowing.  These "pot holes" make level mowing nearly impossible and even walking through the yard less than ideal.  You can fix small low spots in the lawn by carefully removing the turf and filling in the low spot with good topsoil.  

Remove the turf by cutting 2 inches deep into the lawn with a flat-bladed spade, then angle the blade under the sod to cut it free, keeping at least 2 inches deep to get most of the roots.  If you do it really well you will remove a single piece of sod.  After filling the low spot, replace the sod, and keep it well watered until it is reestablished.

Too Late To Seed...
By far the most common question we are getting right now goes like this, "Is it too late to plant grass seed?".  The short answer, Yes, it's too late.

Here's the long answer.  Grass seed put down now will have a hard time getting the soil warmth necessary for proper germination.  Even if it does germinate it's very unlikely that the roots can get established before the really cold weather arrives.  Hopeless?  It's never hopeless.  An unusually warm November coupled with some very good luck could mean that seed put down now could make it.  It's a long shot however.

Why November Turf Fertilizing Is Best...
Nitrogen stimulates increased photosynthesis and the extra energy derived from this goes directly into growth, respiration to maintain the plant (similar to humans), or into storage. In early November, the temperature is still adequate for photosynthesis, but cool enough to minimize respiration demands and too cold for significant growth. Therefore, most of the extra energy derived from a November application of nitrogen is stored by the plant. Next spring, these storage products are used in green-up of the plant and more importantly, for root growth. It is important for the plant to take up the nitrogen quickly in the fall and store the energy for maximum root growth next spring with a minimum of shoot growth. Though one might think that nitrogen applied early next spring would do the equivalent as November-applied nitrogen, just the opposite occurs and shoot growth is stimulated dramatically with early spring-applied nitrogen. A spring application of nitrogen will never compensate for a missed application in November.


"Only man deliberately rearranges the setting he lives in simply because he prefers the look of it."

~ Nan Fairbrother

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