This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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March 21, 2007

Lions and Lambs...
Happy first full day of spring. We are off to a good start enjoying some days already in the high 60's low 70's. Of course there is that occasional day where Mother Nature snaps us back to reality and throws us a day or two in the 50's and it feels unbelievably chilly. Imagine 50 feeling chilly after the winter we experienced. Ironically it becomes so much easier to swallow a day in the 70's versus one in the 50's. Now, on the flip side we don't want it too warm too early. I am not interested in it hitting 80 all at once. Not that I dislike the 80's - it is just that it would be nice to enjoy a couple of months with perfect temps (65-70). A day or two of steady rain would be icing on the cake. Oh, to live in a perfect gardening world!

So did March come in like a lion or lamb? I think it has been a mixed bag and quite honestly I have not decided on one or the other. We experienced some severe storms in the beginning of the month but it has been pretty calm since then. I guess if I had to pick one or the other I would have to say that March arrived like a lion and will exit as a lamb. Just a prediction.

We received several emails regarding our new video clip. I am glad you enjoyed it and if you have not had the opportunity to view it catch it here. This video thing is new for us so we are doing our best to get it right. Next week's will be one you are sure to love!

~ Shelly  

Ready, Set, Wait...
With the rain this week garden soils are going to be wet, and time is rapidly approaching for spring planting.  Although you may be tempted to work wet soil, remember that there are some serious consequences.  Soil structure can be destroyed, forming large clods that take weeks or months to break up with natural weathering.  Use of a rototiller is especially damaging in soils that are too wet.  A gentle spading will cause the least soil damage but is still a risky proposition.  It is better to delay planting a few days or weeks than to try to till wet soils.

Clipping Clematis...
Clematis can be a confusing group of plants to prune, since they are not all pruned the same way.  In fact there are three methods that can be applied to major groups depending on the time of year the plant flowers.  The earliest flowering clematis bloom on old wood, while later flowering types must produce new growth in order for flower buds to form.  Prune carefully, since vines are usually well entangled.  The complete directions are a bit long to fit in this space so we published them in our Features section.  Check out Pruning Clematis...

Relief For The Root-Bound...
Judging when a houseplant needs a new, larger pot is mostly a matter of roots, according to Kansas State University Research and Extension horticulturist Chip Miller. Many container-grown plants need a new home every year. But some grow so slowly that relocating every two or three years can be enough. "To check whether plants are becoming root-bound, you need to knock them out of their pot. If you water several hours before trying this, you'll be able to remove the plant more easily," Miller said.

He recommends two approaches to this dislocation:

  • For plants in pots that are 8 inches wide or smaller, place one hand over the top of the pot with the plant's stem passing between two fingers. Turn pot and plant upside down, and rap the edge of the pot against a table. The root ball should come away from the pot and into your hand.
  • For larger combinations, place the pot on its side and rap its edge with a rubber mallet. Roll the pot a few degrees and repeat the rapping. Continue the procedure until the root ball "releases" and you can slide the pot down.

"If you then see a clear network of roots, the plant needs to be moved into a larger pot," Miller said. "The new pot should be just 1 inch wider if the plant was small enough to remove into your hand. It can be 2 inches wider if the plant's old container was at least 10 inches wide."

 


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Rosy Days Ahead...
Now that we are well past mid-March it's time to start thinking about roses.  Actually we can start doing something too!  Now is a good time to plant bare-root roses and give existing roses some TLC.  Got roses?  Read Getting Started on the Growing Season in our special Rose section.

Do Not Disturb...
All around Kansas City, bulbs are popping up everywhere.  I'll bet yours are too!  Look closely at your bulb beds.  Are there weeds popping up as well?  If so remove the weeds by gentle hand pulling.  Removal with a cultivator or other weeding tool may disturb the bulbs unnecessarily.

Well Oiled Fruit Trees...
Savvygardeners with fruit trees will soon be applying horticultural oils to fruit trees to reduce certain pests.  These oils are not poisons.  Instead, the thin film of oil covers the target insect or mite and plugs the spiracles or pores through which it breathes.  Pine needle scale, oystershell scale, euonymus scale, aphids, spider mites and small pine sawfly larvae are all effectively controlled by this method.

Proper timing is critical for success when using oils.  Dormant oils should be applied in late March or April before leaves or flowers show signs of breaking dormancy.  A common mistake is to apply 'dormant' oil sprays too early (on the first warm day in February or March) before insects are actively respiring and susceptible to the oil's suffocating effects.  Wait until as close to bud break as possible before applying oil sprays.  Also make sure temperatures will be above 40į for at least 24 hours.

Better Spreaders...
Whether it's lawn seed, fertilizer, or weed killer chances are you're going to use a spreader for the job eventually.  But what kind?  Drop or broadcast?  Well, there's several things to keep in mind before you pick one.  Generally if both spreaders are of equal quality, a drop spreader usually will provide better accuracy.  However, a high-quality rotary will be more accurate than a lower-quality drop spreader.  There are these differences to consider as well:

Drop spreaders meter out the fertilizer and drop it directly on the lawn.  A drop spreader is best if: 

  • You have a small lawn.
  • Doing the job as precisely as possible is most important to you. 
  • You donít mind taking a bit longer to apply products to your lawn. 

Rotary spreaders meter out the fertilizer and throw the granules in a swath up to several feet wide.  A rotary spreader is best if: 

  • You have a very large lawn. 
  • You like to get the job done as quickly as possible.
  • You do not have flower beds or gardens in the middle of your lawn.

Finally...
"All through the long winter, I dream of my garden. On the first day of spring, I dig my fingers deep into the soft earth. I can feel its energy, and my spirits soar. "

~ Helen Hayes

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