This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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August 22, 2007

 

Back Outside Again...
I am actually going to work in the yard and garden today. There is a bit of cloud cover and a slight breeze which will help keep the temperature down. I need to mow, weed and a whole lot of other things that I have been putting off. It has just been too darn hot - even late in the evenings which is when I am typically out and about. I find myself outside and then inside again within minutes drenched with perspiration. My motivation level is low, the mosquitoes are horrible and I am just not in the mood. I cannot procrastinate any longer. I have to get outside and get some things done so that our neighbors will not be offended by living next door.

How about that surprise rain shower on Sunday? I was thrilled because it has been so dry. We have lost a couple of arborvitae and there are a couple of more that do not look so well (photo). I am trying to nurse them along but I am afraid that they are past the nursing stage. Yes, even the Savvygardener has difficulties of her own. Failure in the garden is always a good lesson. The ten-day forecast looks promising. Trying not to get my hopes up for cooler weather or rain. Barely hanging on by a piece of twine.

~ Shelly  

Heirloom Tomato Seeds...
Heirloom Tomatoes have been increasing in popularity recently.  Saving seeds from these oldies-but-goodies is a great idea but maybe not as simple as you think.  First of all you need to take some precautions to prevent cross-pollination from other tomato varieties nearby or the seeds may not produce the tomato you wanted. If you grow more than one variety of tomato, they should be planted at least 20-25 feet apart. In addition, a tall barrier crop (corn, pole beans, fruit trees, etc), or a continuous pollen-producing crop (squash) should be planted between varieties to distract the bees. These precautions will prevent most wind caused cross-pollination, and cause bees to visit only one tomato variety at a time before returning to the hive to clean off their collected pollen.

Save the seeds from healthy plants with the best fruit quality. Pick the fruit when ripe, scoop out seeds and pulp into a bowl with a little water then leave to ferment for 4 days (no longer or some heirlooms will begin to sprout). Separate out seed from pulp, rinse the seeds, then dry them on paper towels or a screen in a warm, dry place with good air circulation (try outdoors on warm summer or fall days). After 5-7 days, place seeds in airtight containers (plastic film canisters are good) and store indoors in a dark, cool, dry place. If properly stored, your seeds should remain viable for 3-5 years.

Source

Colorful Closers...
Mums are a gardener's best friend in the fall.  As the latest blooming flowers they provide color and beauty to a garden that has otherwise been worn out for the season. 

When choosing mums from your local retailer buy healthy looking plants that have been taken care of - no broken stems, wilted leaves, etc...  Plants with existing blooms will be limited in their ability to provide much more flowering.  Those with buds about to bloom will provide you with flowers into the fall.  We usually buy several plants in bloom for immediate gratification and quite a few more that we expect to bloom over the coming weeks.  What a great exclamation point at the end of the season!

Tater Tidbits...
If you're harvesting potatoes remember that they will continue to grow as long as the tops are green.  So dig only as many as you need for immediate use.  The ones left in the ground will actually keep better there than in your home.

Blister Beetles Strip Tomatoes...
K-State Extension reports seeing some tomato plants virtually stripped of foliage by Ashgray Blister Beetles. There are several species of blister beetles other than Ashgray that could also cause problems. Blister beetles vary in size (often between 0.5-0.75 inch long) and color (such as black, gray or brown-striped), but most are recognized by their elongated, narrow, cylindrical, soft bodies with middle body part (thorax) narrower than the head or wing covers.

Some home gardeners like to use hand picking as a nonchemical method for controlling these large insects. However, use caution because these beetles contain a substance called cantharidin. This chemical is an irritant capable of blistering internal and external body tissues exposed to the chemical. On tender human skin, body fluids of adult blister beetles may cause large, erect, watery blisters.

Chemical control of blister beetles is also possible. Carbaryl (Sevin) is labeled and effective but has a three-day waiting period. However, Sevin can encourage spider mites and so if you have spider mites or have had them in the past, you may want to consider lambda-cyhalothrin (Spectracide Triazicide) as it will control both blister beetles and spider mites. This product has a 5-day waiting period.

Making The Cut...
When your plants fall victim to disease one of the first courses of action is the removal of the diseased portions.  Careful!  The same pruners that you use to cut away diseased foliage can then transfer the disease to otherwise healthy plants.  It is generally recommended that a one in ten solution of bleach and water be used to disinfect pruners.  Rather than keep a bucket of solution nearby try mixing the solution in a small spray bottle.  Carry it with you and spray your pruners after each cut.

Herb Helpers...
Keep your basil, parsley, mint, and sage, producing by pinching out the seed pods. Herbs can be used fresh, frozen, or dried. Wait until the dew has dried to cut a few stems, tie a string around this little bouquet, and hang in a cool, dry place until completely dry. Crumble and place in a jar for use during the winter.

Source

Wake-Up Sleepy Turf...
If all or parts of your cool season grass have gone dormant this summer you should prepare for a fall comeback now by starting a deep watering program.  Make sure your lawn gets a morning soak twice a week and you will be rewarded with stronger, more lush growth later this fall.

Finally...
"To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring."

~ George Santayana

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