~ August 13, 2008 ~
Baffling the Bugs...
Am I dreaming? What month is this? The cooler mornings and warm afternoons remind me of September.
Could it be that the dog days of summer are past? All I know is that the last few days have
been spectacular. I have spent many hours outside piddling around. Being away on vacation is
great but things on the home garden front are a bit out of control.
Even though the weather is great the mosquitoes are still the size of monsters! Thanks to my
good gardening friends, Elinor and Gus, I no longer have to worry about working outside and being
eaten alive. Elinor and Gus were kind enough to send me a garment called the
Bug Baffler. It
has a hood, long sleeves and hits me right around my waist. It is made out of a polyester/nylon
netting so it breathes well. I tried it out the other day while weeding and was not bothered by
those pesky gnats or mosquitoes. So thanks for thinking of me. I am lucky to have such great
We haven't seen rain for awhile even though they, the local meteorologists, keep talking about it.
It looks as if our chances might increase by Thursday. A rainy day would be nice. If it is
raining outside I don't feel as guilty about being inside.
Over the years
K-State Extension has rated tall fescue varieties for color,
green-up, quality and texture. They have 160 different cultivars
of tall fescue in their Tall Fescue Cultivar Trial near Wichita.
(The old standby K-31 consistently rates at the bottom
by the way.)
The 29 highest-rated named cultivars from last five year's trials were:
Grande II Masterpiece
Each of these varieties averaged a rating of at least 5.1 on
a scale of 0 to 9, with 9 being optimum quality. There were no
statistically different ratings for any of these cultivars. Keep
in mind that mixes of several varieties may allow you to take
advantage of differing strengths. It is not necessary for mixes
to contain only the varieties mentioned above.
They're Not Locusts...
It's that time of year when the din of the
singing cicadas makes it nearly impossible to hold a conversation
outdoors. It's also that time of year that people invariably
refer to these noisy insects as "locusts". Trust us, they
are not locusts. Locusts are actually a type of
grasshopper and have some significant traits that, fortunately,
we do not experience with cicadas:
Locusts tend to travel in swarms.
Fifteen to thirty million adult locusts inhabit each
square mile of a swarm.
- Each locust
weighs less than one tenth of an
ounce, but eats
its weight in food each day. In a
single day, one ton of locusts, a very small part of a
swarm, consumes enough food for 2,500
by contrast feed only during the underground portion of their
life cycle. They feed on tree roots and do not consume
enough to harm the host plant.
Still Time To Divide Iris...
Late summer is ideal for dividing, moving and planting iris. The
old foliage wilting from the summer’s
heat can be trimmed back at least halfway. Trimming also helps
when dividing iris to prevent moisture loss while the plants get
established. Follow these simple steps
to divide your iris plants:
- Dig Iris with a
potato fork, being careful not to damage the rhizome.
- With a sterile
knife, cut the rhizome vertically. Each division should be
approximately 2 inches long with 2-3 fans.
- Dig a shallow
hole mounded in the middle and spread the roots around the
- Set the plant
with fans facing to the outside of the garden to make room for
- Fill the hole
with soil, being careful to leave rhizomes partially exposed,
and water well.
- Water the newly
planted iris regularly if the weather is hot and dry
being careful to avoid overwatering.
Bagworms, caterpillars that weave a small
silky bag with leaf and stick pieces attached, have been
actively feeding for some time now. By August, the bags can be
over an inch long and can do considerable damage in a short
time. They can strip a shrub or small tree completely of foliage
in what seems like a couple of days. A simple solution is to simply pick the bags off as soon
as you notice them. Those inclined toward pesticides can treat them with a spray containing
Bags will eventually reach 2 inches in length and if left to
mature, male moths emerge from the bag later in the season,
mating with females who never leave their bag. Each female can
lay up to a thousand eggs, which remain in the bag until they
hatch in the spring. It is a very good idea to remove and
destroy bags any time of the year.
Hard Core Tomatoes...
During stressful weather (and usually aggravated by excessive
fertilization) the central core of a tomato may become tough
and turn greenish white. The walls also may become pale and
corky. This is usually a temporary condition known as “hard
core.” Fruit that develops later is often free of this
Older varieties of tomatoes normally have five distinct cavities
that are filled with seeds and jelly-like material called
locular jelly. However, many newer tomato varieties possess
genetic traits to make the fruit meatier and firmer with the
seeds being produced all over the inside of the fruit rather
than in the five distinct cavities. These types of tomatoes do
not seem to produce a hard central core nearly as readily as
ones that are not as meaty.
The older variety, Jet Star, which has been widely grown for
many years by Kansas gardeners, has a tendency to produce a hard
core when stressed. Newer varieties such as Mountain Spring,
Mountain Fresh, Daybreak, Sun Leaper, Sunmaster, Celebrity,
Carnival, and other ‘semi-determinate' varieties are less likely
to suffer from this condition.
If you have a vegetable or annual garden that is normally empty
in the fall and through winter you should consider planting a
green manure crop there at the end of this growing season.
The name green manure is given to any crop which is grown only to
be tilled back into the soil. As it rots, the nutrients in the
crop foliage and roots will be taken up by the next crop planted
in the same place. Green manures from the legume family, such as
peas, beans, and clovers, have an added bonus - nitrogen-fixing
bacteria living around their roots can draw nitrogen from the air
and convert it to a form the plant can absorb. This nitrogen
will then be available to subsequent crops.
Green manures also act as "cover crops" protecting the soil from
compaction and erosion caused by wind and rain, as
well as reducing the extent that weeds take over bare soil.
Oh Say Can You Seed?
Yes you can! The best time to start new
cool-season grass seed is late summer/early fall. As long as it
doesn't get crazy hot in the next 7-10 days you'll be able to
get started. Seeding this time of year takes
advantage of warm weather for proper seed germination while
allowing the new turf to thrive as the temperatures cool into
"In August, the large masses of berries, which, when in
flower, had attracted many wild bees, gradually assumed
their bright velvety crimson hue, and by their weight again
bent down and broke their tender limbs."
~ Henry David Thoreau