This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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~ All About Composting
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~ When to Start
Seeds Indoors
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~ 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
~ When to Harvest Vegetables
~ 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
~ Pruning Trees
~ 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.











December 12, 2007


It Could have Been Worse...
It has been an interesting couple of days. We lost power Tuesday morning at around 11:00 AM. We played cards, put on sweatshirts and pondered our next move. After much discussion we headed to a hotel. We boarded Sam Parker and packed up the car. It seemed to take awhile. You would have thought we were going out of town for a week. We are certainly jinxed when it comes to losing power. Even in our old house. Every time the wind blew or we had an ice or snow storm it never failed. We would hear that nasty sound that only a transformer that is about to blow makes and seconds later we were in the dark. Of course the icing on the cake was that our neighbors across the street always had power. UGH! The power is back on (thanks to all of those hard working KCPL people) and the house is slowly starting to warm up. We are really glad to be back home.

The greater Kansas City-area dodged a big bullet. I know that St. Joseph was hit pretty hard but most of our immediate area received a 1/4 inch of ice. My parents live in McPherson, Kansas and they received 1½ inches of ice and their power is out as well. When my mother spoke to the power company they explained to her that it might take up to 5 days to get their power restored. The good news for them is that they own an RV and are living in it for now. I am relieved that they have a place to go. So many others without power do not.

This was a dangerous storm and the damage is still to be determined. The trees all covered in ice are magnificent to look at but may suffer long term damage. My advice is to leave those trees alone that don't have any broken branches. Arborvitae and most evergreens should bounce back once the ice starts to melt. If you have some limbs down call Ryan Lawn & Tree at (913) 381-1505 to make sure that the tree does not need any additional care and that long term it will be OK. Consulting a professional will ease your mind and may just save a tree.

~ Shelly  

Trees That Survived The Storm...
As tragic as an ice storm can be, it is also an opportunity to learn.  In January 2005 the Wichita area was hit by the worst ice storm in south central Kansas’ recorded history bringing the area to its knees as tree limbs crashed into power lines, buildings and vehicles – creating enough broad-scale damage to qualify it as a federal disaster area.  

Some trees fared better than others and our friends at K-State Extension surveyed the damaged and not-so-damaged and are sharing the results with us.  Lessons learned from 2005 (and still applicable today) and a list of the most resilient trees can be found in our feature article, Trees that Survived the Storm...


Treating Those Trees...
This week's ice storm likely caused some damage to your trees and shrubs.  As snow and ice accumulates on branches they sag and may ultimately break.  Here are some tips for dealing with the problem:

For unbroken limbs that are sagging significantly:

  • Don't shake or beat the ice and snow off of them.  This is more likely to cause more damage than it prevents.
  • Gently brush off the loose stuff and leave the rest to melt slowly as temperatures rise.

For broken limbs:

  • Remove broken limbs as soon as practical.
  • Use sharp tools and make clean cuts. This will speed recovery next spring and create a better looking tree.


More On CMA...
Several weeks ago we talked about de-icer damage and the chemicals and compounds that are least harmful to landscape plants.  The article we cited mentioned
Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) as a safe alternative.  While this seems to be the case it is also apparent that it is not commercially available for residential use. Many of our readers asked where to buy this product and we are sorry to say it is not available.  We'll keep you posted if this changes.

Nature's Drip Irrigation?
From the "silver lining" department - one benefit of that layer of ice on the ground is its slow release of moisture into the soil.  It may not be a lot of water but because it melts slowly into the soil it can be a more effective irrigator than a hard rain.  You can even increase the benefit by shoveling sidewalk and driveway ice to areas of the garden that will eventually benefit from the added moisture.  Just make sure the shoveled snow doesn't contain any salty or harmful chemical de-icers.

Ashes To Garden?
You may have heard that using wood ashes on your garden can help make the soil more fertile. Though ashes do contain significant amounts of potash, they contain little phosphate and no nitrogen. Most Kansas City-area soils are naturally high in potash and do not need more. Also, wood ashes will raise the pH of our soils, often a drawback in Kansas where soils tend toward high pH. Therefore, wood ashes add little benefit, and may harm, many Kansas soils. In most cases it is best to get rid of them. However, one possible use for ashes would be as an addition to compost. Compost is normally acidic and the ashes would help neutralize the pH.


Goin' Buggy...
Most homes in winter become dry as bone meal.  Keep an eye out for spider mites on your houseplants - they thrive in that dry air.  Females lay about 200 eggs and the life cycle may be completed in just 7 days.  Do the math - it gets ugly fast!  

Sharpen Mower Blades Now...
Last week we talked about putting the mower away for the winter.  Now is also an excellent time to sharpen mower blades so they'll be ready next spring. Sharpening rotary mower blades is fairly straightforward. The following steps will guide you through this process:

  1. Check the blade for major damage. If you can't fix it, it likely will need to be replaced.
  2. Remove grass and debris from the blade with a moist cloth. Dry before beginning to sharpen the cutting edge.
  3. Remove nicks from the cutting edge, using a grinding wheel or hand-file.
  4. If using a grinding wheel, match the existing edge angle to the wheel. If hand-filing, file at the same angle as the existing edge.
  5. Grind or file until the edge is 1/32 inch, about the size of a period.
  6. Particularly with a grinding wheel, avoid overheating the blade as this may warp it.
  7. Clean the blade with solvent or oil for optimum winter storage. Avoid use of water as it will promote rust.

Following these tips can help you better prepare your mower for winter storage and also save you some steps this coming spring.


"The hiss was now becoming a roar-the whole world was a vast moving screen of snow-but even now it said peace, it said remoteness, it said cold, it said sleep."

~ Conrad Aiken

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