This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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This Week's Photos, Inc.











October 10, 2007


Fruit Growin' and Leaf Blowin'...
We harvested our one and only cantaloupe (photo). I have decided that I am not a "grow to eat" kind of gardener. I was excited to see the fruit setting on the plants and was thrilled when we picked and tasted our first tomato, but once the critters living in the yard took over I sort of lost interest. I must be a fair-weather fruit and vegetable gardener. When things are going great I'm all for it but once things start going downhill I'm likely to throw in the towel. It looks like prettying things up is my forte so I guess I am better off sticking to that. From now on, Kevin and the kids are responsible for the fruit and vegetable growing.

We are really getting a taste of fall weather this week. The high today is going to be in the high 60's and tomorrow's high will be in the low 60's. This is the good life. There is nothing better than throwing on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt to head outside to rake up some leaves. Speaking of raking... Kevin my dear husband recently purchased a gas-powered leaf blower and vacuum. I love it. Leave it to me to be so excited about something as crazy as a leaf blower. What a time saver. It blows the leaves into a nice pile and then it sucks and mulches them right up (photo). I know, it sounds trivial but anything that makes my job easier is a good thing. And yes, I owned one previously but it was electric and I didn't like the way the cord got wrapped around everything. So picky!

~ Shelly  

Don't Dig Too Deep...
Planting a tree this fall?  Great idea!  Just make sure you do it right.  The planting depth of a new tree is extremely important and often done improperly. Trees that are planted too deep may not grow as fast or be as healthy as those planted properly.

Here's what to do. Dig a hole twice as wide and slightly shallower than the root ball. Roughen the sides and bottom of the hole with a pick or shovel so that roots can penetrate the soil. The root collar (where the trunk and roots meet) should be at least even with, and as much as an inch and a half higher than, the final grade.

Bedtime For Gardens?
We are often asked how and when to "put the garden to bed."  The term "putting the garden to bed" means preparing the garden for winter and the weather will dictate when that date is.  Our first frost is normally in mid-October (any time now).  How "hard" that first frost is will help you decide whether or not it is time to cut back all perennials and rid the garden of all annuals.  We always like to squeeze as much time as possible out of the fall garden knowing that once that hard frost hits winter is well on its way. We'll keep you posted on the weather and when that first hard frost is coming.

Why Isn't My Red Maple Red?
Why do some red maple trees have yellow fall foliage instead of brilliant red? Although fall color will vary with different environmental conditions, in many cases the yellow foliage of these red maples is simply due to the genetics of the individual tree. Unnamed red maple trees grown from seed are not always brilliant red. They have highly variable fall color. If you want a red maple with red foliage in the fall, choose named, vegetatively propagated red maple cultivars such as Red Sunset, Magnificent Magenta or Autumn Flame. October Glory has outstanding foliage color but is late in acclimating for winter and can be damaged by early cold snaps. However, even these "good" cultivars will vary in the level of "redness" from year to year. A number of things can reduce the intensity of color including extreme heat or drought during the summer and cloudy days and warm nights in the fall.

Oak Galls?
What are those round bumpy lesions that are appearing on some local oak trees?  Very possibly Oak Galls.  A number of tiny non-stinging wasps, mites and flies are the culprits behind abnormal growths that develop on the leaves of twigs of oak trees.  These galls can include growths that are round, spiny, flattened, elongated or star-shaped.

Generally, these gall insects do not cause significant damage to their hosts though some of the leaf galls can cause deformity to make a tree unsightly.  Also, severe infestations of twig galls can cause twig dieback or, in rare cases, death.  However, just because a twig is covered with galls does not mean that it is dead.  Twigs that otherwise look like a solid mass of galls may still leaf out in the spring.  More details and a photo are available here...

Moving The Mums...
Your potted mums can be transplanted into the garden for many years of enjoyment.  For best results, transplant them into well-drained soil as winter injury is most common when mums are planted in poorly-drained soils.  Potted mums are often grown in a mix that is very high in organic matter.  If these are planted in very heavy clay soil without first amending it, the difference between the two soil situations often prevents good root establishment and increases the chance of winter kill.  

After the leaves have turned brown, cut back the tops and apply a loose airy mulch several inches thick allowing light to get to the small basal shoots during the winter. The purpose of this mulch is to provide wind protection and keep the soil shaded and frozen so that frost heaving is minimized.  This protective mulch may be removed or pulled away from the crown by early to mid-April after danger of severe cold is past.


Hackberry Psyllids In Homes...
Sometimes called jumping plant lice, these small dark-colored insects resemble cicadas in miniature form.  They are about 1/8- to 1/5-inch long and small enough to enter homes through ordinary screens.   These insects overwinter in buildings or in bark crevices on trees.  After mating in the spring, the females deposit eggs on newly emerging hackberry leaves.  Nymphs hatch from the eggs and start feeding on the underside of the leaves.  

Since these insects are specific to hackberry trees, only homes near a hackberry tree are affected.  If hackberry psyllids become a nuisance inside, use a vacuum cleaner to suck them up.  Be sure to discard the bag immediately after vacuuming so they don't escape and re-infest the home.


If It's Growing We're Mowing...
When do Savvygardeners stop mowing their lawns? When the grass stops growing of course. As long as it continues to grow keep bluegrass cut to 2 inches and tall fescue to 2 inches.  

Don't forget to keep the leaves from piling up and smothering the grass below!

"Nature does not complete things. She is chaotic. Man must finish, and he does so by making a garden and building a wall."

~ Robert Frost

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