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
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.
doesn't that sound delightful? We have several activities
outside this weekend and I am actually looking forward to them.
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.
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
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.
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.)
highest-rated named cultivars from last five year's trials were:
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..
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
- Set the plant
with fans facing to the outside of the garden to make room for
- 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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
Oh Say Can You
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
"It's difficult to
think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown