This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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~ All About Composting
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~ When to Start
Seeds Indoors
~ Seed Starting Indoors
~ Vegetable Garden Calendar
~ Seed Starting Tomatoes


Shrub Pruning Calendar
~ Pruning Clematis 
~ Gardening in the Shade
~ Summer-Flowering Bulb Care
~ Drought-Tolerant Flowers for KC
~ Preparing for a Soil Test
~ Changing the pH of Your Soil
~ Growing Herbs
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~ Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
~ Organic Pesticides & Biopesticides
~ Cold Frames & Hot Beds
~ When to Divide Perennials
~ Dividing Spring Blooming Perennials
~ Forcing Bulbs Indoors
~ Overseeding A Lawn
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~ Pruning Shrubs
~ Planting Trees
~ Deer Resistant Plants
~ Trees that Survived the Storm
~ Stump Removal Options for the Homeowner
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This Week's Photos, Inc.











August 15, 2007


Back To School...
Here we are in the third week of August still suffering from the heat and lack of rain. I know that it is hot in August but I must admit as I grow older I am not quite as fond of it as I used to be. I used to be able to stay outside for hours, weeding and piddling around. Not anymore. I have been watering early in the morning, maybe again at night and that is the extent of my being outside. I took the boys to the pool the other day and found a comfortable place underneath an umbrella. Of course comfortable is all relative. It was still too hot to be out for long so we stayed for a couple of hours and then came home. We were all bushed. The sun and heat can really take it out of you. Be wise and make sure that you wear cool clothing, a hat and have plenty of water nearby if you are venturing out.

It looks as if we are going to get a break in the weather this weekend. The seven-day outlook is calling for temperatures to dip into the high 80's. Brrr... doesn't that sound delightful? We have several activities outside this weekend and I am actually looking forward to them.

School starts tomorrow and the kids and I are really looking forward to it. The kids will be meeting their new teachers, making new friends and I will be in the garden at my leisure getting reacquainted with plants - old and new. Fall will be here soon enough which will allow time for planting. I have a long list and look forward to getting started.

~ Shelly  

They're Not Locusts...
It's that time of year when the din of the singing cicadas makes it nearly impossible to hold a conversation outdoors. It's also that time of year that people invariably refer to these noisy insects as "locusts".  Trust us, they are not locusts.  Locusts are actually a type of grasshopper and have some significant traits that, fortunately, we do not experience with cicadas:

  • Locusts tend to travel in swarms.  Fifteen to thirty million adult locusts inhabit each square mile of a swarm.
  • Each locust weighs less than one tenth of an ounce, but eats its weight in food each day. In a single day, one ton of locusts, a very small part of a swarm, consumes enough food for 2,500 people. 

Cicadas by contrast feed only during the underground portion of their life cycle.  They feed on tree roots and do not consume enough to harm the host plant.

Best Fescues...
Each year K-State Extension rates tall fescue varieties for color, green-up, quality and texture. They have 160 different cultivars of tall fescue in their Tall Fescue Cultivar Trial near Wichita. Quality ratings are taken once a month from March through October. (The old standby K-31 consistently rates at the bottom by the way.) 

The 29 highest-rated named cultivars from last five year's trials were:

Justice Padre Avenger Millennium
Apache III Scorpion Falcon IV 2nd Millennium
Wolfpack Coshise III Silverado II Finelawn Elite
Escalade Dynasty Ultimate Blade Runner
Laramie Serengeti Riverside Blackwatch
Cayenne Titanium


Rembrandt Constitution Picasso Turbo
Grande II Masterpiece

Each of these varieties averaged a rating of at least 5.1 on a scale of 0 to 9, with 9 being optimum quality. There were no statistically different ratings for any of these cultivars. Keep in mind that mixes of several varieties may allow you to take advantage of differing strengths. It is not necessary for mixes to contain only the varieties mentioned above..

Still Time To Divide Iris...
Late summer is ideal for dividing, moving and planting iris. The old foliage wilting from the summer’s heat can be trimmed back at least halfway. Trimming also helps when dividing iris to prevent moisture loss while the plants get established.  Follow these simple steps to divide your iris plants:

  • Dig Iris with a potato fork, being careful not to damage the rhizome.
  • With a sterile knife, cut the rhizome vertically. Each division should be approximately 2 inches long with 2-3 fans.
  • Dig a shallow hole mounded in the middle and spread the roots around the mound.
  • Set the plant with fans facing to the outside of the garden to make room for expanded growth.
  • Fill the hole with soil, being careful to leave rhizomes partially exposed, and water well.
  • Water the newly planted iris regularly if the weather is hot and dry being careful to avoid overwatering.


Battling Bagworms...
Bagworms, caterpillars that weave a small silky bag with leaf and stick pieces attached, have been actively feeding for some time now. By August, the bags can be over an inch long and can do considerable damage in a short time. They can strip a shrub or small tree completely of foliage in what seems like a couple of days. Pick the bags off as soon as you notice them or treat them with a spray containing spinosad. Bags will eventually reach 2 inches and if left to mature, male moths emerge from the bag later in the season, mating with females who never leave their bag. Each female can lay up to a thousand eggs, which remain in the bag until they hatch in the spring. It is a very good idea to remove and destroy bags any time of the year.


Look Out For Lacebugs...
Continue to monitor azalea, pyracantha and Japanese andromeda for the presence of lacebugs. Populations of these insects can explode during the summer months, and left unchecked, may send susceptible plants into a downward spiral of decline. Plantings in full sun always fare worse, so check these most often. If you find more than two or three lacebugs per leaf, prepare an application of insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. Be sure to spray the entire plant upper and lower leaf surfaces for best control.


Hard Core Tomatoes...
During stressful weather - usually aggravated by excessive fertilization - the central core of a tomato may become tough and turn greenish white. The walls also may become pale and corky. This is usually a temporary condition known as “hard core.” Fruit that develops later is often free of this condition.

Older varieties of tomatoes normally have five distinct cavities that are filled with seeds and jelly-like material called locular jelly. However, many newer tomato varieties possess genetic traits to make the fruit meatier and firmer with the seeds being produced all over the inside of the fruit rather than in the five distinct cavities. These types of tomatoes do not seem to produce a hard central core nearly as readily as ones that are not as meaty.

The older variety, Jet Star, which has been widely grown for many years by Kansas gardeners, has a tendency to produce a hard core when stressed. Newer varieties such as Mountain Spring, Mountain Fresh, Daybreak, Sun Leaper, Sunmaster, Celebrity, Carnival, and other ‘semi-determinate' varieties are less likely to suffer from this condition.


Garden Toppers...
If you have a vegetable or annual garden that is normally empty in the fall and through winter you should consider planting a green manure crop there at the end of this growing season.  The name green manure is given to any crop which is grown only to be tilled back into the soil.  As it rots, the nutrients in the crop foliage and roots will be taken up by the next crop planted in the same place.  Green manures from the legume family, such as peas, beans, and clovers, have an added bonus - nitrogen-fixing bacteria living around their roots can draw nitrogen from the air and convert it to a form the plant can absorb.  This nitrogen will then be available to subsequent crops.

Green manures also act as "cover crops" protecting the soil from compaction and erosion caused by wind and rain, as well as reducing the extent that weeds take over bare soil.

Oh Say Can You Seed?
Yes you can!  The best time to start new cool-season grass seed is late summer/early fall.  Once we get these triple digit temperatures behind us we'll be able to get started.  Seeding this time of year takes advantage of warm weather for proper seed germination while allowing the new turf to thrive as the temperatures cool into fall.

"It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato."

~ Lewis Grizzard

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