This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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Shrub Pruning Calendar
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~ Drought-Tolerant Flowers for KC
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~ Changing the pH of Your Soil
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~ Overseeding A Lawn
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April 25, 2007


Gardening With Friends...
A couple of friends and I have decided to team up this spring to help each other with planting. We are working together to make our gardens an extension of our home. A place that is comfortable for relaxing and entertaining. I love this idea. These women are fun to be around and they are not afraid to work hard and get their hands dirty. They are true Savvygardeners! They are a lot like me in the sense that they are not afraid to make a mistake. We have all planted something in one place or another and then decided that it doesn't really belong there. So... we pick it up and move it, hoping that it will thrive in its new place. There is always so much to learn, whether it is moving a plant from one place to another or listening to a suggestion from a friend. So if you are interested in a little help as well as giving some, try hooking up with a friend or neighbor who likes to garden as much as you do. It is always fun to garden in numbers!

The rain we received yesterday was great for the gardens. It wasn't much but some is better than none. There is a slight chance for more today. Check out this week's video if you have planting on your schedule. A good reminder about digging in wet soil. This weekend looks like it is going to get warm. Let the planting begin!

~ Shelly  

Are Your Roses OK?
Many hybrid tea roses were damaged by the freezes we experienced earlier this month. The extent of damage, if any at all, will vary based on where your roses are growing and what protection they were provided during the freeze periods.  Take a look at the canes to inspect for damage:

  • If the ends of canes are mushy cut them back to more normal growth.
  • Brown canes should be scraped to determine whether the cambium is alive. If not, simply cut back the canes to live growth.
  • Green canes are probably healthy and can be left alone.

Most hybrid teas are propagated by budding. If all the growth above the bud union is dead, the plant should be dug up and discarded. Plants grown on their own roots can be allowed to sprout from the base.


Hydrangea Helper...
Hydrangeas are wonderful.  Especially when they bloom.  You're not alone if you are sometimes (or often) frustrated by otherwise beautiful and healthy-looking hydrangeas that just won't bloom.  There are reasons for this of course.  Here are the likely ones:

  • Improper Pruning
    Some bloom on old wood, some on new season's growth.  For example, the popular 'Annabelle' varieties bloom on new growth and are consequently best cut back hard in the early spring.  By contrast, the Bigleaf hydrangea will grow in Kansas City but will not usually flower because the flowers develop on old (last season's growth) wood.  Since flower buds lack the cold hardiness of the foliage buds, they are often killed by our cold winters.
  • Too Much Shade
    While they will do all right in partial shade or full sunlight, too much shade could keep them from flowering
  • Too Much Nitrogen
    Fertilizing with high nitrogen fertilizers will limit blooms.  Try using a fertilizer with less nitrogen "N" and more Phosphorous "P".    


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Showers For Flowers...
April took a long time to live up to it's traditional billing and has finally graced us with much needed showers.  Hopefully we will continue to get the inch of rain per week that our gardens need.  Unfortunately most years bring us long periods of dry, hot weather requiring diligent watering to keep our flowers looking their best.

If staying on top of watering isn't your idea of a good time you can always choose your flowers accordingly.  A drought-tolerant flower garden should include the following:


Burning Bush, Kochia Gazania, Gazania
Creeping Zinnia, Sanvitalia Mexican Sunflower, Tithonia
Dusty Miller, Senecio Rose Moss, Portulaca
Four O'Clock, Mirabilis Salvia, Salvia farinacea


Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia Iris, Iris
Blanket Flower, Gaillardia Sage, Salvia
Butterfly Flower, Asclepias Sedum
Gayfeather, Liatris Tickseed, Coreopsis

For a more complete list of drought-tolerant flowers that grow well in the Kansas City area click here.

Pine Wilt - Act Now!
Pine wilt is a disease of Austrian, Scots and occasionally white pines caused by the pinewood nematode. Symptoms usually appear from August through December. In general, the trees wilt and die rapidly within a short period of time. The needles turn yellow/brown and remain attached to the tree. The early stages of the disease are subtle and may vary. The pinewood nematode is transmitted from pine to pine by a bark beetle, the pine sawyer (Monochamus carolinensis). In May or June, adult pine sawyers emerge from pine trees and fly to new trees and feed under the bark of young pine shoots. If the beetle is carrying the pinewood nematode, the tree may become infested with nematodes.

If you have a tree with confirmed pine wilt, or merely a Scotch or Austrian pine that died suddenly and seems likely to have pine wilt, cut it down by May 1 at the latest. Chip or burn the pieces (before May 1), and make sure to cut it all the way to the ground leaving no stump. If you don't, pine sawyer beetles will emerge and carry the disease-causing nematode to fresh victims.


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It's Raining Worms!
If you've been outside and noticed small worms falling from the sky you're not alone. All over the metro, worms are falling from oak trees. These worms are actually the larvae of a gall midge. The larvae came from eggs that adult midges laid on the flower clusters of pin oak in early spring. Newly hatched larvae feed on the flower clusters and then move to the leaves as they unfurl. Eventually, the larvae drop to the ground in order to pupate. Adults emerge early the next spring to start the cycle all over again. The midges apparently cause no damage.


Tent Caterpillar Control...
The silken webs of Eastern tent caterpillar usually start appearing in April. These leaf munchers feed on many fruit trees, including apple, crabapples and cherries and some shade trees. The caterpillars feed at night on leaves in close proximity to the tent, and return to the tent during the day. Caterpillars grow to 2 inches, with a white stripe and blue markings down the back. A closely related insect, the forest tent caterpillar, feeds on many deciduous trees, including ash, popular and willow. They have prominent blue strips with white spots on its back.

Most gardeners can successfully control the caterpillars by simply knocking them out of the tree with a broom or spray of water from a hose.  Once they hit the ground the caterpillars usually can't get back into the tree and will likely become a convenient meal to any birds in the area.

More Growin', More Mowin'...
Most of us have fallen into the habit of mowing the lawn every week.  This time of year however the grass is growing so fast that you probably need to mow it a bit more often.  Remember that you don't want to cut off more than 1/3 of the height of the grass in any single mowing.  In our yard that means mowing twice per week.  It won't last long and the extra investment in time will yield a healthier more durable lawn when the summer heat sets in.

"You fight dandelions all weekend, and late Monday afternoon there they are, pert as all get out, in full and gorgeous bloom, pretty as can be, thriving as only dandelions can in the face of adversity."

~ Hal Borland

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