This week's gardening tips from the Savvygardener.

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January 23, 2008

 

Breakfast Club...
I had the pleasure of speaking to the Prairie Planters gardening club this morning. What a delightful group of women. It is so much fun to meet new gardening friends. We had the opportunity to swap stories about our gardens and what things work and don't work for us as gardeners. We discussed plant varieties, what to plant, where and when. Several topics were covered and a delicious breakfast was served. Thanks so much for the invitation. I really enjoyed myself.

As I was walking Sam Parker (the family beagle) today I noticed that the snow is slowly melting. I saw quite a few lawns where I could actually see large patches of grass. Hooray, we are finally thawing out! Make notes either mentally or on paper where the snow on your property melts first. This will help you to decide on what types of grass seed to use or what plants might work best in those sunnier areas. Knowing little things like this will make you a savvier gardener.

Melting snow today, single digits for tonight and then a small warm-up for Thursday and Friday. The weekend brings hope of temperatures in the high 40's maybe reaching into the 50's. Wouldn't that be great?

~ Shelly  

Mulching Tea Roses...
It's not too late to provide winter care mulch for your tea roses.  Mulching tea roses involves protecting the graft union of the plant, normally just at, or below, the soil level.  The best and easiest way to protect the graft is with a mound of soil. The mound of garden soil should be six to eight inches, poured in a cone shape right over the center of the plant. This soil should not come from the surrounding plant, as this could damage the rootsIt is best to bring soil in from another part of the garden or purchase a bag of topsoil.

Minimize Lawn Damage...
Lawns and shrubs can be damaged by the various chemicals and salts we use to melt ice and snow. Savvygardeners can minimize the risk of damage by following a few simple steps when de-icing walks and driveways:

  1. Use an ice melting substitute or calcium chloride that is gentler on the landscape than salt.
  2. Before applying such a product, shovel off as much snow as possible.
  3. Apply the de-icing product down the middle of your sidewalk or driveway.
  4. Shovel any treated snow or ice into the street or driveway.  Any place but your lawn.

Source

White Water...
While it generally takes 8 -10 inches of snow to equal just one-inch of rain you can maximize the irrigating effects of last weekend's snow with a little extra work.  When you're shoveling the walks and driveway simply transfer that (untreated) snow to your garden beds.  As it melts your gardens will benefit from the extra moisture.

A Gentler Approach To Houseplant Pests...
Insects on houseplants are a major pain.  Not only are they hurting your plants but control measures using chemicals are pretty undesirable to a lot of homeowners.  Here are three control approaches that minimize risk to you and your housemates.

  • Physically pick-off caterpillars, slugs, and other larger pests.
  • Swab pests with a small brush or cotton swab moistened with rubbing alcohol. This method is feasible when plants are small and infestations very light. It is tedious and must be done once a week over a period of time.
  • Plants can also be washed in a diluted mixture of water and insecticidal soap, or gently spray-washed with lukewarm water.  Repeated washings over a period of time are necessary to gradually reduce infestations.  

If the infestation is severe, it may be preferable to discard the plant and replace it rather than attempt chemical control.

Source

Care For Amaryllis...
We've had several readers ask about the ongoing care of  an amaryllis received during the holidays.  Here are some quick tips:

  1. Remove any spent flowers after blooming.
  2. Place the plant in a bright sunny window to allow the leaves to fully develop.
  3. Keep the soil evenly moist, not soggy.
  4. Feed occasionally with a general purpose houseplant fertilizer.

Viability Verification...
So, you're getting ready to start some seeds indoors and don't know if last year's leftovers are still good.  Well, you can start by checking the typical viability of 20 popular vegetable seeds in the table below:

Vegetable Viability
(Years) 
Vegetable Viability
(Years)
Beans 3 Muskmelons 4-5
Broccoli 3-5 Peas 3
Brussels Sprouts 3-5 Peppers 2-3
Cabbage 3-4 Pumpkin 4-5
Carrots 3 Radish 5
Cauliflower 3-5 Spinach 5
Corn, Sweet 2 Squash, Summer 3-4
Cucumbers 5 Squash, Winter 4
Lettuce 5-6 Tomato 3-4
Lima Beans 3 Turnip 4-5

To be absolutely sure here's a trick we use to determine if seeds are still good:

  • Take ten seeds from the package and place them on a paper towel that you have moistened with warm water. 
  • Fold the paper towel over to cover the seeds.
  • Keep the towel moist and warm (on top of the fridge usually works for warmth) until they start to germinate. 
  • If less than six seeds (60%) germinate you might as well throw the rest away. 
  • If six or more germinate it will be worthwhile to plant the rest. 
  • Don't waste your test seeds!  The ones that germinate should be carefully moved to your preferred seedling container and cared for until ready for transplanting outdoors.

Source

All Set For Onions...
Onions are one of the earliest crops that can be planted in the garden - late March in most of eastern and central Kansas.  As they usually require 6 to 8 weeks of growing time before transplanting they should be started indoors now.  Plant onion seeds fairly close together - to inches apart in a pot or flat filled with commercial seed starting mix.  (A lot of onion plants can be grown in a small area.)  Place the container in a warm (75 to 80 F) location until the seedlings emerge.  When the seedlings are 1 to 2 inches tall, move them to a cooler (60 to 65 F) location with plenty of natural or artificial light.   After the onion seedlings are 2 to 3 inches tall, apply a soluble fertilizer with each or alternate waterings.  When they are 4 to 5 inches tall "give them a haircut" by trimming the ends of the leaves to produce a shorter, stockier plant.  In early March, move the plants to an outdoor, protected location for a few weeks prior to actual transplanting.

Head Seven...
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Finally...
"Any book about gardens, written for the pleasure of writing, must have its sources in dreams. The visions of gardens beautiful and retired hover before the imagination, and no real garden, however humble, but is invested in celestial light of cherished hopes of what it may become in fragrant flowers or what it might have been had fortune been kind."

~ Lena May McCauley

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