This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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March 28, 2007

Back From London...
It is hard to know where to begin. Spring is everywhere! The Redbuds, Bradford Pears, Magnolias and Forsythia are in full bloom. When flying into Kansas City Sunday evening, after having spent a week in London, I could not believe how everything had come to life. It was delightful coming home to warm weather. We weren't so lucky in London. Beautiful yes
(photos), but cold!. It even snowed one day. One word describes it well - dreadful (the weather, not the sites). The next time we go we'll have to go in late May or June - when it is warmer. That will be the time to tour Kew Gardens and the English countryside. Things we didn't get to do this time. A great trip nonetheless.

I got to mow the lawn today. Notice how I said "got" to mow. I love mowing the lawn. I love the way it looks when I am finished and I love the smell of fresh cut grass. I even love to edge. It boils down to this - I love the way everything looks once I've finished. There is such a strong sense of accomplishment and pride. Don't you feel the same?

The ten-day forecast looks delightful. Rain and more mild temperatures. Watch out for some of those low morning temperatures. If you have started planting or buying plants that could be harmed by frost keep an eye on your e-mail inbox. We'll will keep you up to date with our timely frost warnings.

Catch this week's videos. One on my bulb experiment and the other on the cutting back of Liriope. Enjoy!

~ Shelly  

The Great Divide...
Dividing perennials is important for the garden and the soul.  The garden benefits because many perennials become overcrowded and need to be thinned out once in a while.  The gardener's soul benefits because it provides an opportunity to share our garden treasures with other gardeners who will go on to expand their beauty.  

Don't divide the wrong plants!  Before you start take a look at our handy guide When to Divide Perennials in our Features section.

Keep 'Em Covered...
Gardeners anxious to get their yard and garden chores done in spring may be tempted to remove the mulch from their strawberry beds in March or early April.  A portion of the strawberry crop may be lost however if the mulch is removed too early in the spring.  Removal of the mulch plus several days of warm weather may encourage the plants to bloom before the danger of frost or freezing temperatures is past.  Temperatures of 32F or lower may severely damage or destroy open flowers.  Since the first flowers produce the largest berries, a late spring frost can drastically reduce yields. 

To reduce the chances of frost or freeze damage leave the mulch on until the plants show signs of growth.  Periodically examine the plants under the mulch during periods of warm weather in the spring.  Remove the mulch from the strawberry plants when about 25% of the plants are showing new growth (it will be white or yellow in color).  Rake the mulch to the center aisles between rows.  If there is a threat of a frost later in the season during bloom, the mulch can be lightly raked back over the plants.

 

Proper Pruning...
Part of your spring clean-up may include some tree pruning.  Take your time and do it right.  In particular don't leave stubs behind when pruning.  Stubs usually die and become entry points for decay fungus.  Instead cut just outside the branch collar, the slightly thickened area at the base of the branch.  As an extra precaution remember that pruning should never be done in damp or wet weather when the fungal spores and bacteria that infect plants through fresh wounds spread easily.

 


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Here Come Hummers...
Hummingbirds will be in our area from mid-April through October.  Invite these wonderful birds into your garden with a hummingbird feeder and the plants they love:

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

 

Scat Cat...
So, your neighbor's cat has decided that your garden is its designated litter box?  Here are some tips that might actually work to keep that feline from soiling your garden:

  • Try planting rue.  This attractive blue-green herb has a scent that most cats find disagreeable.
  • Modify the cat's behavior.  Spray water at the cat when it comes into the garden.  If the cat associates an unpleasant shower with your garden it will likely find another place to hang out.
  • Plant a garden just for the cat.  By creating a small space that the cat enjoys you may be able to keep it away from the rest of your plantings.  Try catnip, catmint, cat thyme, and valerian.

 

Stopping The Topping...
Has that tree in the front yard gotten a little too big?  If so you need to resist the urge to "top it".  Topping, also known as heading or stubbing, is a damaging pruning practice that seriously damages the long-term health of a tree.  According to the U.S. National Arboretum many homeowners top their trees because of a misconception that large trees are hazardous and that storm debris will be reduced with a reduction in size.  In fact, topped trees produce large quantities of water sprouts - shoots that are weakly attached and are easily broken off during storms - to replace the leaves and branches that were lost, thereby increasing storm debris.

Zoysia Zzz's...
If you have a zoysia lawn it is still dormant and you should not be applying any fertilizer to it.  Any fertilizer added now will just feed the weeds and they're overfed as it is.  Be patient.  You should be able to fertilize your zoysia lawn in about six weeks.

Finally...
"March is a month of considerable frustration - it is so near spring and yet across a great deal of the country the weather is still so violent and changeable that outdoor activity in our yards seems light-years away. "

~ Thalassa Cruso

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