This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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This Week's Photos, Inc.











September 19, 2007


Late Produce...
You can see from Kevin's photos (last week's photos) that we have watermelon and cantaloupe growing in our vegetable garden (or should I say our fruit garden). The ones pictured are the largest and should be ripe for harvesting around Thanksgiving (ha!). Even though we will not get a chance to enjoy a taste of either there is still something very satisfying about growing your own produce. My father has done it for years and every year he harvests something he will tell you that there is nothing more gratifying. Isn't it the little things in life that are sometimes the most enjoyable?

How about that rain last night? We received almost an inch here in Mission Hills. I loved everything about it. The lightening, the thunder and the rain pouring out of the sky. A welcome relief. I have purchased a bunch of pansies (this week's photos) so I am going to be busy the next few days switching over to a fall. I am excited by the opportunity to become creative with new material. Once I finish I will have Kevin take some pictures so I can share my ideas with all of my gardening friends. I'm excited!

Today is a special day. It is Kevin's birthday. Happy Birthday partner. Love you tons!

~ Shelly  

Totally Tulips (Part 3)...
If you enjoy the thought of continuously blooming tulips in your spring garden you will need to round out the early and middle bloomers (discussed in the previous two issues) with some of these later blooming varieties:

  • Single Late Tulips incorporate the former Darwin, cottage, and breeder tulips.  Along with the Darwin hybrid tulips, they are some of the tallest tulips.  Flowers are borne on stems up to 30 inches tall and available in a wide range of colors.
  • Double Late Tulips are often referred to as peony-flowered tulips.  The many-petaled flowers are borne on 12 to 20 inch stems.  Plant double late tulips in protected locations as the large flowers can be damaged by rain and strong winds.
  • Viridiflora Tulips produce long-lasting flowers which have prominent green markings on their petals.  The unusual flower characteristics make it a novelty item in the garden.
  • Lily-flowering Tulips have long pointed petals which arch outward, the flowers somewhat resembling a lily.  Flower colors include white, pink, red, yellow, and purple. Several varieties have petals edged or feathered in contrasting colors.  Plants grow to a height of 20 to 30 inches.
  • Fringed Tulips have flowers with elegant fringed petals. Many varieties are mutants of single late tulips.  Also known as "crispa tulips."
  • Rembrandt Tulips produce striped or "broken" blooms. The white, yellow, or red petals are striped with red, bronze, or purple.  These types were bought for huge sums during the "tulip mania" in Holland in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  The unusual markings were actually caused by a virus.  Due to the virus, the original Rembrandt tulips are no longer sold.  However, there are several modern, virus-free Rembrandt tulips available.
  • Multi-flowering Tulips produce 3 to 7 blooms per stem.  The main stem of multi-flowering tulips branches into secondary stems.  Each secondary stem produces a flower.  The flower on the main stem is slightly larger than those on the secondary stems.  Many of the multi-flowering cultivars belong to the single late tulip class.  These tulips are 14- to 20-inch-tall plants which bloom late in the season.  Several varieties are multi-flowering Greigii tulips which are 8 to 12 inches tall and early blooming.

Next week, Species Tulips...


Diggin' On Trees...
Fall is the preferred time to plant many trees and shrubs.  Warm soil, moderate air temperatures and autumn rains all help a tree adjust to its new environment and set down roots with a minimum of stress and shock.  If you are transplanting deciduous trees and shrubs, wait until their leaves have dropped or at least changed color.  Evergreens and conifers, however, benefit from early planting in fall.  In either case watering (1 inch weekly until the ground is frozen) and mulching the root zone are crucial to success.

Make Green Tomatoes See Red...
All this cool weather means green tomatoes are not likely to ripen on the vine. And what's worse, if a rogue frost comes our way it's game over.  Here are two approaches to getting those green tomatoes to ripen out of harm's way:

  • Remove the whole plant, roots and all, and hang it upside-down in a cool, dark area indoors or in a garage.  At temperatures in the 60's those tomatoes should ripen nicely.  Just pull them off the vine as they are individually ready.
  • If the above method is a bit messy for you try picking the green tomatoes and individually wrapping them in newspaper.  Place them in a paper bag or cardboard box and store in a cool, dark place.  Keep an eye on them periodically.  When they start to redden up unwrap them and let them finish ripening at room temperature.  Hint - If you're in a hurry place an apple in the bag with the wrapped tomatoes.

Tasty red tomatoes won't be far away!

Whiteflies Everywhere...
K-State Extension reports whitefly problems on outdoor plants such as annuals, tomatoes and other vegetables in our region. Whiteflies do not overwinter well in the Kansas City area but can build up later in the season due to migration from more southern climes and introductions from transplants.

If you need to control them on your vegetables, try an insecticidal soap or a neem based product. These products are much more effective if used before the population builds up. On ornamental plants we have more options  including Bayer Rose & Flower Insect Killer, malathion, insecticidal soap, neem based products, pyrethrin, and Ortho Rose and Flower Insect Control.

Pay special attention to houseplants that have spent the summer outside. Check carefully for whiteflies before bringing inside for the winter. If whiteflies are present, use a product labeled for houseplants. All the products listed above but malathion are labeled for houseplant use.


Beyond Soil Tests...
Though soil tests are useful for identifying nutrient deficiencies as well as soil pH, they do not tell the whole story. In addition to issues related to water and sunshine here are some factors that can affect plant growth that are not due to nutrient deficiencies or pH.

  • Too much phosphorus: While most Kansas City area soils are naturally low in phosphorus, soils that have been fertilized for a number of years may have phosphorus levels that are quite high. Too much phosphorus can interfere with the uptake of some micronutrients such as iron, manganese and zinc. High phosphorus soils should only be fertilized with fertilizers that have relatively low amounts of phosphorus.
  • Poor soil physical characteristics: Roots need oxygen as much as they need water. A tight clay soil can restrict soil oxygen levels as well as make root penetration of the soil difficult. Increasing the organic matter content of clay soils can help break them up. Add a 2-inch layer of organic matter and till it in.
  • Walnut trees: Walnuts give off a natural herbicide that interferes with the growth of some plants such as tomatoes. Vegetable gardens should be at least 50 feet away from walnut trees if possible. 
  • Tree roots: Trees not only compete with other plants for sun but also for water and nutrients. Extra water and nutrients may be needed.
  • Shallow soils: When new homes are built, the topsoil is often stripped off before the soils are brought to grade. Though the topsoil should be replaced, it sometimes is not or is not replaced to the same depth as it was originally. You are left with a subsoil that usually does not allow plants to grow well due to a lack of soil structure. Adding topsoil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches would be best but this often is not practical. In such cases, try to rebuild structure by adding organic matter and working it into the soil.


Needle Drop...
It's not unusual for Savvygardeners to start seeing noticeable needle drop on some of their pines. This is a process where 2 to 4-year-old interior needles turn yellow, then brown, and eventually drop off. Don't be alarmed! This is a natural phenomenon that occurs every year and does not hurt the tree. However, some years it is much more noticeable than others. Still worried?  Be sure to check that only the older needles are affected (the needles on the tips of the branches should look fine) and that there is no spotting or banding on the needles that are turning yellow.


New Turf Tips...
If you planted grass seed and have new grass coming in here are a couple of good reminders for you:

  • Keep it cut to about 2 inches.  Just be careful that mower wheels don't tear the grass from the soil.
  • Don't apply any herbicides or insecticides until the new grass has been mowed three times.  

"Never dare tell me again anything about "green grass." Tell me how the lawn was flecked with shadows. I know perfectly well that grass is green. So does everybody else in England... Make me see what it was that made your garden distinct from a thousand others."

~ Robert Louis Stevenson

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