This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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June 6, 2007


In Full Swing...
Our front yard project is in full swing! Plants are being placed and planted. To get a feel for the project take a look at the video that my talented husband Kevin created. It's fun and lets you see the project from demolition to its current state. I must say that Tectonic's staff is doing a great job. Imagine having to put in a garden for me. I hate to admit it but I am probably not the best customer. I am picky! Everything has to be just right. Cole Welch, the owner of Tectonic gets it. He is precise and doesn't settle for just gotta love that! We are having a blast creating something so beautiful.

Missouri Organic delivered all of the topsoil and mulch to the front door. What a difference it makes to not have to carry all of those heavy bags - especially since we needed 12 yards of each. That is a lot of topsoil and mulch. A project of this magnitude just doesn't come together. It takes time and planning. Get involved, be a part. You are the only one who really knows what you want. Take time to give the person who is helping you create your landscape your stamp of approval. Even if you feel as if you really don't know what you are doing. In the end you will be glad you gave your two cents.

That's it for now, gotta get back outside to give my two cents. How about this weather? Perfect!

~ Shelly  

Controlling Critters On Your Cukes...
The striped cucumber beetle is a serious threat to cucurbits, such as squash, cucumber, melon and pumpkin.  The larvae will cause severe damage to roots and beetles can do a real number on an emerging plant by feeding on the lower surface of its leaves.  These menaces also spread bacterial wilt, cucumber mosaic, and squash mosaic virus.

Although there are several insecticides that control the cucumber beetle, only a few chemicals can be used on cucurbit plants because of their sensitivity to chemical injury. 

Hand-picking is an organic approach and should be done in the early morning when most feeding occurs.  These beetles are easy to kill but reinforcements arriving on the plants make this a very time consuming job.

Insecticides labeled for vegetables containing pyrethrum, rotenone, methoxychlor, or carbaryl (Sevin) should control the beetles.  As always, follow directions and warnings carefully when using chemicals.

Dividing Daylilies...
One of the reasons we love daylilies is their fuss-free nature.  Generally they don't need to be divided as often as many other perennials.  However if you want to increase the number of your favorite cultivars you may want to divide them once in a while.  Savvygardeners should be able to get four new plants from a healthy, 4-year old daylily.  Divide them immediately after flowering, and replant them right away.

Monitor Those Melons...
Recent and upcoming warmer temperatures are sure to give watermelons a growth boost.  Keep an eye on them!  As vines from different plants begin to intermingle, and the canopy becomes thicker, the chances of developing anthracnose increase.  It's a good idea to scout watermelon patches once or twice a week for this disease.  Look for multiple small brown to black spots on leaves.  These spots are typically associated with leaf veins.  As the spots coalesce and dry out, the leaf may appear tattered.  It's a good idea to implement a preventive fungicide spray schedule, especially during rainy periods.  Chlorothalonil, mancozeb and azoxystrobin (Quadris) are labeled for anthracnose control.  Azoxystrobin should be rotated with one of the other fungicides to help prevent potential resistance problems.


Give 'Em Room To Breathe...
Just because your plant is wilting don't assume it's due to lack of water.  Plants can wilt from lack of oxygen too!  Soil can become over-compacted and cause root systems to suffocate.  The problem is often made worse by assuming the plant is thirsty and adding water unnecessarily.

Improving the soil for better air and water circulation is easy.  Simply add peat moss or other loose organic material in and around the root area of your plants. Everyone will breathe easier!

New Trees From Cuttings...
Now is a good time to start new trees and shrubs from existing ones. Many ornamental trees and shrubs can be reproduced by taking cuttings from new growth that occurred this spring. Though these softwood cuttings root relatively easily, they are susceptible to wilting and need close attention to watering and relative humidity.

  • It is best if cuttings are taken after a rain or several hours after the plant has been well watered.
  • Stems should be mature enough that they snap rather than bend when placed under pressure.
  • Cuttings should be about 6 inches long with cuts made at an angle just below a node, the area where a leaf joins the stem. The angle provides a larger cut surface and more area for the cutting to callus and root.
  • Strip off the lower leaves and place the cutting in a moist rooting media after it has been dipped in rooting powder. Several rooting mediums are suitable including sand with peat moss, sand with vermiculite, perlite with peat moss, and perlite with vermiculite. A suitable medium should provide good moisture-holding capacity and be open enough to provide good aeration to the roots.
  • Relative humidity should be kept at a high level by enclosing the container or containers in a plastic bag. Use wooden dowels or a similar object to keep the plastic off the top of the cuttings.
  • Place the rooting container in bright, indirect light and check often for watering needs.

Though some plants can be rooted directly in water, roots formed in water do not adapt well to soil.  When roots are about 1 inch long, cuttings can be removed from the propagation chamber and potted.


Dividing Ornamental Grass...
If large clumps of ornamental grasses such as maiden grass have hollow centers, this is a sign they need dividing for best growth. Large clumps can have massive roots and be quite heavy, so we find it easier to just divide pieces off the sides rather than to lift the whole clump. A square-tipped spade works best for this. You may even need to get such divisions started with a hatchet!


Disappointing Turf?
If the appearance of your lawn after mowing is not what you expect there are a few things worth evaluating.

  1. Check your mowing height.  You should mow as high as possible for the specific grass type (2 to 3 inches is a healthy height for most lawn grasses).
  2. Consider your mowing frequency. A higher mowed turf will need to be mowed less frequently and scalp less often than a closely mowed turf.
  3. Probably most importantly, check the sharpness of your mower bladeDull or damaged mower blades do not cut cleanly and leave ragged leaf tips. These ragged wounds are very stressful to the turf plant, and provide an excellent opportunity for some disease pathogens to penetrate and infect the plant.

"If you wish to make anything grow, you must understand it in a very real sense. "Green fingers" are a fact, and a mystery only to the unpracticed. But green fingers are the extensions of a verdant heart."

~ Russell Page

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