This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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Seeds Indoors
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~ Overseeding A Lawn
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This Week's Photos, Inc.











June 13, 2007


Just My Style...
One of the neighbors stopped by the house recently to tell me how much she liked our new landscape. I thanked her and told her that I was thrilled with the way everything turned out. In return she asked me, "What was wrong with the old landscape?" I told her that there was nothing wrong with the old landscape it just was not what we had envisioned. She smiled and said, "Well that makes sense." We continued chatting but after she left I reflected back on our conversation. The original landscape was fine. It just wasn't "us". It wasn't our style nor did it reflect the way we like to garden. There was very little space for planting so most of the changes we made will allow us to incorporate our own style. I like to think of our gardens as rooms. We want to be out in them, enjoying our surroundings. To me creating a space of comfort is one of life's greatest pleasures. Just one more place to retreat to when things begin to feel too hectic.

Believe it or not we are going to start a vegetable garden this year. Those of you who have read the Savvygardener newsletter for some time know that this is not our first attempt. We are a tomato loving family and also enjoy cantaloupe and watermelon. So, we are going to give those a shot. Now keep in mind that our backyard is a sort of wild kingdom. There are squirrels by the thousands, chipmunks and mice. We have hung several bird feeders and are attracting quite an interesting group of feathered friends. So, what do you think our odds are on picking a ripe tomato? How about a cantaloupe or watermelon? Only time will tell... wish us luck!

~ Shelly  

When Good Mulch Goes Bad...
There's bound to be a few Savvygardeners out there that had a pile of mulch delivered before or during the rains we've had recently.  If you didn't get that mulch covered be careful. Hardwood mulch can become a real problem if left too long in a damp pile.  Not only does it smell bad once it "sours" it can adversely affect plants that it comes in contact with.  Symptoms look like fertilizer or pesticide burn or water stress.  Damage can be severe enough to actually kill plants - yikes!  Depending on the extent of the injury, plants are often able to recover.  Savvygardeners should water affected plants during hot, dry periods to prevent further stress. 

Mulch that has soured can still be used if it is "mellowed" before application.  Simply spread the mulch in shallow layers and allow it to air out for several days until it no longer smells.  It may also be helpful to water the mulch before application to wash away any toxic substances.

Is That A Volcano In Your Garden?
Speaking of mulch... When mulching try to avoid creating "mulch volcanoes" at the base of your trees.  Unfortunately it is quite common to see trees mulched in this manner - a ring of mulch that gets progressively deeper as it approaches the trunk.  While this is better than no mulch at all, Chris Starbuck at University of Missouri Extension advises us that there are some real problems to consider:

  • When mulch is placed more than about 4 inches deep, roots tend to "migrate" up into the mulch during rainy periods or when the area is irrigated.  Then, when drought conditions occur, the plant may come under severe stress because many of its roots are growing in a material with much less water holding capacity than real soil.
  • The surfaces of the mulch volcanoes can become hydrophobic due to fungal activity and will act as very effective umbrellas, shedding water to the surrounding turf.  This could easily kill a young tree by depriving it of much needed water.
  • Other possible problems with mulch volcanoes are promotion of fungal canker diseases by constant moisture around the lower trunk, stress from poor gas exchange by the cells in the bark and damage from rodents that may take up residence in the volcano.


Blackspot On Roses...
A common disease of roses is blackspot, a fungal disease that can cause defoliation of susceptible plants. Look for dark, circular lesions with feathery edges on the top surface of the leaves and raised purple spots on young canes. Infected leaves will often yellow between spots and eventually drop. The infection usually starts on the lower leaves and works its way up the plant. Blackspot is most severe under conditions of high relative humidity (> 85%), warm temperatures (75 to 85 degrees F) and six or more hours of leaf wetness. Newly expanding leaves are most vulnerable to infection. The fungus can survive on fallen leaves or canes and is disseminated primarily by splashing water.

Cultural practices are the first line of defense.

  1. Donít plant susceptible roses unless you are willing to use fungicide sprays. Follow this link for a list of blackspot resistant varieties.
  2. Keep irrigation water off the foliage. Drip irrigation works best with roses.
  3. Plant roses in sunny areas with good air movement to limit the amount of time the foliage is wet.
  4. Remove diseased leaves that have fallen and prune out infected rose canes to minimize inoculum.

If needed, protect foliage with a regular spray program of effective fungicides. Recommended fungicides include tebuconazole (Bayer Disease Control for Roses, Flowers and Shrubs), myclobutanil (Immunox), triforine (Funginex), thiophanate methyl (Fertilome Halt) and chlorothalonil (Broad Spectrum Fungicide, Garden Disease Control.


Minimize Mosquitoes...
One of our least favorite parts of summer is the arrival (or re-emergence) of mosquitoes. This year is no exception. Eliminating sources of standing water is the most effective way of keeping mosquito populations in check but it is sometimes impractical for gardeners.  Here are some good tips for dealing with standing water that can't be removed.

  • Drain or empty the water in dog bowls, wading pools and birdbaths at least once-a-week. This will ensure egg-stage mosquitoes never have time to reach maturity.
  • Irrigate lawns and gardens carefully. Where soils have high clay content, for example, irrigating slowly or irrigating several times lightly will allow the clay to absorb the water, rather than causing puddles and runoff.
  • Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito larvae-eating fish, such as goldfish.
  • Remove in-water plants from the edges of garden ponds to allow fish access to the larvae living and developing there.
  • Using a retail product to control mosquito larvae will be more effective and less costly than trying to control the flying adults.


Fruit Dropping, Branch Propping...
Don't be alarmed if tree fruit is dropping this time of year. It's just Mother nature's natural thinning process designed to prevent excessive loads.  Just in case the branch loads remain too heavy you should thin remaining fruit by hand or prop up heavy branches to avoid breakage.  Most fruit should be spaced 6 to 8 inches apart on a branch.


Onward Onions...
Your onions should be growing rapidly and enlarging about now. Onions have a pretty shallow root system and need regular watering and fertilizing to keep growing.  A light application of fertilizer or compost along the row will keep them growing vigorously.  Don't be alarmed if you see a fair amount of the onion developing above the soil line.  This is normal.  When tops begin to get weak and fall over, onion bulbs are about full grown.  At this point, you can break over tops to encourage the necks to dry.  After a few days dig them up to keep bulbs from getting sunburned.  Allow your onions to dry with the tops attached for 1 to 2 weeks before cutting the tops, wiping (not washing) any excess soil from the bulbs, and placing them in a cool, dry location for storage (or eating).


A Cut Above...
The next few months will likely be very taxing for your fescue or bluegrass lawn.  Long, hot and humid days, with little rainfall can make even the greenest lawns wilt.  While it's probably not possible to keep your turf looking perfectly lush and green all summer you can prepare it for the heat by raising the cutting height of your mower.  Fescues and bluegrass should be cut at a height of 3 to 3Ĺ inches.  Determine your mowing frequency by cutting no more than one-third of the blade height with each cutting.  This means cutting when it reaches 4Ĺ inches or so.

"In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful."

~ Abram Linwood Urban

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