This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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November 8, 2006

Like Old Times...
I had the opportunity today to go to our old house and work in the gardens. The new owner of our old house travels frequently and called to see if I would help her prepare the beds for winter. It was fun. It brought back fond memories. Memories of choosing plants, planting them and caring for them. So many of them have been there for years and faithfully return each year. I found it rewarding to be working in a garden I was so familiar with. Sometimes I wish that I would have moved everything from the old garden to our new house. The gardens at our new house are not yet developed so I don't get much of a chance to toil in the dirt. In time my new gardens will too become something I love. It is easy to miss a garden that is so well into its prime.

One of the things I noticed while gardening on this beautiful 82˚ fall day was how dry everything is. I left a note for my friend and told her to try to be a bit more diligent in watering. You could see the grass showing signs of stress due to lack of moisture and the garden soil was very dry. If I have said it once I have said it a million times, "You have got to water". Mother Nature doesn't always provide us with the amount of moisture needed. Which means... we have to make it happen. So get out those hoses, turn on that irrigation system and water away.

~ Shelly  

Pre-Winter Watering...
To protect perennial plants from winter damage, it is important that they go into winter with moist soil. Itís been a warm, dry fall in many areas of Kansas, so consider watering. Although all perennial plants will benefit from watering during a dry fall, it is especially important for evergreens because moisture is easily lost from the foliage and newly planted trees and shrubs due to limited root systems.

A good, deep watering with moisture reaching at least a foot down into the soil is much better than several light sprinklings that just wet the top portions of the soil. This will ensure that the majority of roots have access to water. The roots that actually absorb water are killed when the soil temperature reaches 28˚F. Those near the surface do not last long in our Kansas City winters. We must rely on roots that are deeper, and provide moisture for them to absorb. Depth of watering can be checked with a metal rod or wooden dowel. Either instrument will easily penetrate moist soil but will stop when dry soil is reached.


Help For The Not So Hardy...
Our first frost is behind us and our first hard freeze is not far away.  It's time to do something with those non-hardy bulbs we planted last spring.  Here's what to do:

  • Dahlias
    the tops of dahlia plants back to about 3 inches above the soil.  Then dig the roots out of the ground, being careful not to break the neck.  Place the root clumps upside down and allow them to dry for several hours before storing.
  • Gladiolus
    Cut gladiolus tops back close to the base, leaving no more than an inch or so of the stem.  Remove the excess soil from the corms.  Spread the corms out in a well-ventilated place, such as a garage, for about three weeks.  Once dried thoroughly, remove the old corms, stems and husks and discard them.  The healthy new corms are then ready for storing.
  • Canna
    Cut back canna stems to about 6 inches.  Dig the rhizomes out of the ground and dry for a few hours in the sun.  Then bring them in for storage.
  • Tuberous Begonias
    Dig tuberous begonias, tops and all, after frost blackens the tops.  Put them in a frost-free place for a week or 2 for drying.  Once dry, cut the tops back to about 3 inches from the tuber.  Let tubers dry for about 2 more weeks.  Then break off the stem stubs and shake the excess soil from the tubers.

Dahlias, cannas, and begonias can be stored surrounded by vermiculite or peat moss in a shallow box.  Gladioli should be stored in a paper bag.

Slug Solution...
If slugs were a problem this year, clean up vegetable gardens and perennial borders very thoroughly. Dry autumn weather sends these mollusks searching for damp hiding places. If you deprive them of moist areas that they can use to stay alive, you can significantly decrease the potential for damage next year.



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Winter Rose Protection...
Get your roses ready for winter by cutting them back to about 36 inches.  Mound mulching material (compost, straw, leaves, etc...) at least 12 inches deep around the remaining stems to provide protection from freezing and soil heaving. Next spring you'll cut back any of the wood that didn't survive the winter and your roses will be ready for another great growing season.

Keep Your Cutters Clean...
Your shears and loppers are probably getting a good workout as you tidy up the garden and landscape.  Keep them in good working order by wiping them with a rag dipped in paint thinner to remove sticky resins. Regular sharpening and a periodic thorough oiling will help the better tools last forever.

Mice + Mulch = Mischief...
Mice and other rodents like to creep around and underneath mulched areas. Who can blame them?  It's warm there!  But they can be mischievous little creatures too.  To prevent them from gnawing on your tree trunks and shrubs keep mulch pulled back several inches from the bases of your trees and shrubs.

Fertilizer Finale...
A November application of fertilizer is extremely important to keep your lawn healthy and looking good this fall and next year.  Late fall Nitrogen promotes good root development, enhances storage of energy reserves, and extends color retention this fall.  Most of the benefits from late fall Nitrogen will be seen next spring and summer with earlier green-up, improved density, and improved tolerance to diseases and other stresses.  Apply near or after your last mowing of the year, but while grass is still green.  Timing is not overly critical as there may be a month or more between your last mowing and the time the grass turns brown or goes under snow cover.  Generally Thanksgiving is a good target fertilzing date but because it's so late this year we'll shoot for any time in the first few weeks of November.  Use a soluble Nitrogen source such as urea, ammonium nitrate, or ammonium sulfate and apply 1 to 1Ĺ lbs. N/1000 sq. ft.

"A solitary maple on a woodside flames in single scarlet, recalls nothing so much as the daughter of a noble house dressed for a fancy ball, with the whole family gathered round to admire her before she goes."

~ Henry James

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