This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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Shrub Pruning Calendar
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~ When to Divide Perennials
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April 11, 2007

Don't Panic...
So how about the weather these days? Cold enough for everyone? It is hard to believe that Easter weekend's low temperatures were in the high teens. Brrr... I didn't like it and neither did the plants. I saw lots of sheets covering tulips, azaleas, rhododendrons and many other plants in bloom - owners trying to salvage the beginning beauty of spring
(photos). We have had many emails with concerns about the way a lot of plants look. Let's not panic. There will be some tender things lost but most everything outside is in shock due to the cold. It will take some time to actually see what type of damage might have taken place. It is supposed to warm up next week so once things start to recover that will be the time to keep a close eye on everything. If it is black it is probably dead. If you are not sure, don't cut it back. There will be plants that will need more time than others so be patient and give your garden a bit of time.

Since it will be warming up next week now is the time to start thinking about spending time seated outside. Our friends at Courtyard & Patio have just the right things to keep you comfy. A wide selection and a helpful staff will make finding those perfect pieces a snap. So what are you waiting for? Get in while the getting is good.

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Dealing With Damage...
OK, most of us were probably affected by last weekend's overnight freezes.  Don't panic if your plants look a little weary after that ordeal.  It may be too early to prune or remove plants that appear damaged. Some plants may appear dead, but they are not. Corrective pruning should not be started until the full extent of the damage can be determined. Injury to foliage and tender shoots should be visible within a few days - look for areas that have blackened.

It may be several months before damage to larger limbs can be determined. Wait to see if any live green foliage reappears or gently scrape under the outer layer of bark to see if green wood is present. Once you have determined the extent of damage, remove any dead wood. There is very little that can be done to revive plants suffering from the extreme effects of freezing. Note: Watering cold-damaged plants that appear wilted will not help to revive them.

Tuckered Out Tulips?
Unfortunately it's not uncommon for many modern tulip varieties to "wear out" after a few years and eventually produce insignificant blooms or no blooms at all. Here are some tips to increase the chances of perennial blooming of your tulips:

  • Plant the bulbs at the depth indicated on the packaged they arrived in.
  • Water them - especially in the fall - to help develop strong roots.
  • Clip off flower heads after they have bloomed.
  • Do not remove the foliage until it has turned brown and withered.


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Circular Logic...
A popular and effective way to prevent disease in the vegetable garden is called crop rotation.  By rotating the location of vegetable plantings within the garden each season you can greatly reduce the likelihood of soil-borne disease.  This method works best when you rotate crop families from place to place and the rotation includes at least three families.  The effectiveness of crop rotation is diminished when the total gardening area is quite small.  Just do your best!  Here's a list of the most common home garden vegetables and their associated families:

Family Family Members
Alliaceae Chive, garlic, leek, onion, shallot
Apiaceae Carrot, celery, parsley, parsnip
Asteraceae Endive, lettuce
Brassicaceae Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, radish, rutabaga, turnip
Chenopodiaceae Beet, Swiss chard, spinach
Convolvulaceae Sweet potato
Curcurbitaceae Cucumber, gourd, melons, pumpkin, squash
Fabaceae Lima bean, pea, snap bean, soy bean
Malvaceae Okra
Poaceae Corn
Solanaceae Eggplant, pepper, potato, tomato

The Forsythia Clock...
When the forsythia have finished blooming, it is a sign to do several things.

  1. Apply a preemergent herbicide such as Preen (if desired) to garden beds as the soil temperature is now conducive to weed growth.
  2. Rake back mulch around roses and discard.
  3. Prune your roses and dig in a balanced fertilizer.
  4. Apply a crabgrass preventer to lawns if you had a problem last year.


Daffodil's Deadly Secret...
If you take my cue and decide to cut some flowering bulbs from the garden make sure you keep the daffodils separated from other cuttings. Daffodil stems secrete a fluid that can drastically reduce the life of other cut flowers in the same vase. After a couple of days in a vase they should be OK for sharing the same space.

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Second Chance Dandelions...
Readers of our newsletter know that we recommend that dandelions be controlled in the fall. However, if you missed the fall application, a second opportunity for dandelion control is approaching. Research by Purdue University has shown that good control can be achieved with an herbicide applied during or soon after the first flush of flowers. Use a combination product that contains 2,4-D, MCPP and dicamba. Examples would include products such as Trimec, Weed Out, Weed-B-Gon and Weed Free Zone. If you have only a few dandelions, consider spot treatment rather than a blanket application. There are ornamental plants that are very sensitive to drift from these herbicides, so be careful. Avoid spraying on windy days.


Henbit In Lawns...
The plants with the little purple flowers that are starting to make themselves known in home lawns are called henbit. If you are not sure this is what you have, check the stems. If they are square rather than round, you have henbit. Though it actually comes up in the fall, most people do not pay much attention to this weed until it starts to flower. Trying to kill it at this late stage with an herbicide is usually a waste of time and money. Though the plant may be burned back, it will rarely be killed. So what do we do? Remember, this is a winter annual; it comes up in the fall, matures in the spring and dies as soon as it starts to get hot. All that we can do now is keep it mowed until nature takes its course.

However, we can do something next fall that will help next spring. Henbit usually germinates about mid-October. Spraying with 2,4-D, Weed-B-Gon, Weed Free Zone, Weed Out, or Trimec in early November can go a long way toward eliminating henbit next spring. The plants are small during the fall and relatively easy to control. 


"O the green things growing, the green things growing, The faint sweet smell of the green things growing!"

~ Dinah Mulock Craik

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