This Week's Gardening Tips from the Savvygardener
Missouri Organic Mulch, Compost, Bulk Soil
In This Issue
~ Bitter Cucumbers? ~ The Cutting Gardener ~ Bulbs That Bloom In Autumn
~ Revitalize Herbs ~ Plucking Petunias ~ Too Tall Turf?
~ Thump Goes The Melon   ~ Inspiration
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Shrub Pruning Calendar
~ Pruning Clematis 
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~ Summer-Flowering Bulb Care
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~ Preparing for a Soil Test
~ Changing the pH of Your Soil
~ Growing Herbs
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~ Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
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~ Cold Frames & Hot Beds
~ When to Divide Perennials
~ Dividing Spring Blooming Perennials
~ Forcing Bulbs Indoors
~ Overseeding A Lawn
~ Pruning Trees
~ Pruning Shrubs
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This Week's Photos

~ July23, 2008 ~

Summer Swelter...
Perhaps I should listen to my own advice. On Monday morning I worked in the gardens for about an hour or so and then played tennis that evening at 6. Before my tennis match I felt fine. I made sure that I ate a light dinner but after a couple of games I started to shake and get the chills. A sure sign of heat exhaustion. I continued to hydrate throughout the match and was able to finish. It sure was hot out there and with the heat and humidity the way it has been it pays to be careful. Drink plenty of water and don't forget to drink something like Gatorade that will help to replace the salt and electrolytes that we lose as we sweat. It is summer after all and I am sure that there is more of this weather to come.

I can say that if the weather continues as it has been you will find me inside. The older I get the more I dislike the extreme heat. I really lose the desire to do anything. I water my pots and tend to only necessary things, mowing, weeding, etc. Other than that it is inside where it is cool. Call it summer hibernation. I will return outside once the temperatures start to come down. For now I will thumb through my gardening magazines and dream of cooler days.

~ Shelly   

Bitter Cucumbers?
A bitter taste in cucumbers is the result of stress that can be caused by a number of factors, including heredity, moisture, temperature, soil characteristics and disease. Most often this occurs during the hot part of the summer or later in the growing season.

Two compounds, cucurbitacins B and C, give rise to the bitter taste. Though often only the stem end is affected, at times the entire fruit is bitter. Also, most of the bitter taste is found in and just under the skin. Bitter fruit is not the result of cucumbers cross-pollinating with squash or melons. These plants cannot cross-pollinate with one another.

Often newer varieties are less likely to become bitter than older ones. Proper cultural care is also often helpful. Make sure your plants have the following:

  • Well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5.
  • Plenty of organic matter also helps.
  • Mulch helps conserve moisture and keep roots cool during hot, dry weather.
  • Adequate water especially during the fruiting season.
  • Disease and insect control.


Revitalize Herbs...
If your basil and thyme look like they need an extreme makeover you can revitalize them by cutting them back severely. This will stimulate a clean new flush of growth, free of any insect and disease damage incurred since spring.

Thump Goes The Melon...
Watermelon growers may have some pretty big fruit by now. You don't want to harvest your melons too early! Just check for these tell-tale indicators of ripeness:

  • The underside ground spot turns from whitish to creamy yellow.
  • The tendril closest to the melon turns brown and shrivels.
  • The rind loses its gloss and appears dull.
  • The melon produces a dull thud rather than a ringing sound when thumped.

The Cutting Gardener...
When gardens are blooming the way they have been lately it's a shame not to spread the beauty around. How? By bringing some of it inside! Before you try it yourself there are some procedures to follow if you really want to do it right:

  • Start when flower stems are full of water - either early morning (6 to 8 AM) or late evening (7 to 9 PM).
  • Carry a clean bucket filled with very warm (100 to 120 F) water.
  • Always use sharp, very clean scissors or pruners when cutting. 
  • Immediately place any cut flowers in the bucket of warm water.
  • When you bring the flowers in, re-cut each flower under water.  This pulls water into the stems more quickly.  Flowers that are not re-cut immediately after picking can lose up to 60% of their vase life.
  • Place the bucket of re-cut flowers in a cool area, such as the basement and allow them to hydrate or harden for at least one hour (although overnight is best).
  • Arrange, display, enjoy!


Plucking Petunias...
Deadheading petunias is a sure-fire way to keep them blooming all summer long. But sometimes gardeners have trouble knowing which ones stay and which ones go. Spent blossoms often look very much like unopened petunia buds. If you're unsure just remember that spent petunia blossoms are shrunken and have little substance to them and come off with a gentle tug. Immature buds feel full and hang on a little tighter.

Bulbs That Bloom In Autumn...
The savviest of Savvygardeners know that there are a number of autumn-blooming bulbs that really perk up the fall garden and landscape. Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) also known as meadow saffron, mysteria, or naked boys produces pink to lavender crocus-like flowers in the fall and there is no foliage present when the plants are in bloom. Dark green leaves will emerge in the spring, remain until summer, then turn yellow and die to the ground. After which, the flowers magically appear in the fall again.

Colchicums should be planted immediately after purchase or delivery in August or September or they will start to bloom in their packaging. Plant the corms in clumps, 2-3 inches deep in well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade.  Pretty!

Too Tall Turf?
If you've been away on vacation and your lawn is extra tall be careful about cutting too much at once. As a rule you should cut no more than one-third of the grass height at a time. If necessary, try setting your mower height to the highest setting for a first cutting. Then wait two-three days and cut again at a reduced height.

"Summer has set in with its usual severity."

~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge



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